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"The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The Stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal."
— A Hogwarts library book[src]

The Philosopher's Stone was a legendary alchemical substance with magical properties. This ruby-red stone could be used to create the Elixir of Life, which made the drinker immortal, as well as transform any metal into pure gold. The only known Stone to have ever existed was created by the famed alchemist Nicolas Flamel.[1][2]

During 1991–1992 school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Lord Voldemort made attempts to steal the Stone for his own purposes. The final, and almost successful, attempt resulted in a skirmish for possession of the Stone. However, Voldemort was foiled by eleven year old Harry Potter and his return to power was delayed.[3]

History

Creation

Creating a Philosepher's Stone was one of the best known goals of Alchemy, and Alchemists have sought to produce the stone for centuries. Critics of the legend of the Deathly Hallows have suggested that Beedle the Bard (c. 15th century) was inspired to create the life-restoring Resurrection Stone from the life-extending Philosopher's Stone. In reality, the Resurrection Stone was, in fact, a genuine artifact with similar powers to its legendary depiction.[4]

Despite countless attempts over the ages, the only Stone known to exist was created by famed French alchemist, Nicolas Flamel, sometime in the 14th century or later. Flamel used the Elixir of Life derived from the stone to extend his and his wife Perenelle's lifespan for over six centuries.[1]

The Stone in Flamel's House in 1927

While living in Paris in 1927, Flamel kept the Philosopher's Stone in the back of a shelf next to his phoenix book in a glass dome where it could be seen when he met Jacob Kowalski.[5]

During Gilderoy Lockhart's student days at Hogwarts, he would rant to anyone who would bother to listen about planning to achieve many impressive feats, one of which is to create a Philosopher's Stone before graduation; of course, he never did so.[6]

The Stone in Gringotts Vault 713 in 1991

At some time before 1st August 1991, the stone was stored in Vault 713, a high security vault at Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

Protecting the Stone

"I don't know how you found out about the Stone, but rest assured, no one can possibly steal it, it's too well protected."
Professor McGonagall regarding the stone's safety[src]

In 1991, the Philosopher's Stone became the target of the Dark Wizard Lord Voldemort intending to use the Elixir of Life to create a new body for his mangled soul after being disembodied during his failed attack on Godric's Hollow in 1981. It is unknown how Voldemort learned of the stone.

Voldemort used a human host, Quirinus Quirrell, to attempt to steal the stone from Gringotts. However, possibly suspecting a threat, Albus Dumbledore had Rubeus Hagrid retrieve the stone the very morning of the attempted robbery.[7]

The Stone in the Underground Chamber in Hogwarts in 1991

After that, the Stone was placed in a special chamber and guarded by seven enchantments and creatures, provided by the Professors at Hogwarts: Professor Sprout's web of Devil's Snare; Winged Keys, charmed by Filius Flitwick; a life-size board of Wizard's Chess, transfigured and animated by Professor McGonagall; Professor Quirrell's mountain troll; Professor Snape's Potion riddle; and the Mirror of Erised, enchanted to hold the stone by Albus Dumbledore. Rubeus Hagrid's massive three-headed dog, Fluffy, guarded the trap door through which the chamber was accessed.[8]

In order to keep them safe from Fluffy and the other obstacles, Dumbledore forbade access to the third-floor corridor to all students.[9]

Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger suspected that the stone would be stolen. They mistakenly believed the thief was Hogwarts Potions Master Severus Snape, due to out-of-context conversations that they had overheard and Snape's general nature.[8]

Harry Potter battling Voldemort and Quirrell for possession of the stone in the Underground Chambers

Harry felt compelled to protect the stone and he and his friends, displaying intellectual power and heroism far exceeding their years, fought past the obstacles, until finally Harry was forced to face Quirinus Quirrell and Lord Voldemort himself. In the final showdown, Quirrell lost his life, and Lord Voldemort lost his meagre hold on the physical world once again.[3]

The stone in Harry's hand

After securing the stone, Albus Dumbledore and Flamel discussed its future and agreed that it was best to destroy it. Flamel ensured he and his wife had enough remaining elixir to set their affairs in order before they would ultimately die, a fate with which they were quite content.

Upon learning this, Harry believed that this was a terrible price to pay but Dumbledore assured the young wizard that their deaths would be like "going to bed after a very, very long day", after living for over 600 years.[3]

Aftermath

"The Stone was not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you wanted, the two things most human beings would choose above all. The trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them."
— Albus Dumbledore regarding the true nature of the Philosopher's Stone[src]

After his failure, Voldemort correctly deduced that Dumbledore would destroy the stone to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands again. Voldemort had then given up on the stone and waited for another method to regenerate his body.[10] He only wanted the stone to create a body for himself, and nothing more, as being dependent on the Elixir and Stone for his immortality was unacceptable to him.[11]

When Dumbledore's Army met for the first time in the Hog's Head Inn in 1995, Neville Longbottom incorrectly referred to it as the "Philological Stone" when discussing Harry's past achievements.[12]

Nature

The stone wrapped in brown paper

The Stone could turn any metal into pure gold, and produced the Elixir of Life, which granted immortality.[1][2]

The Stone was variously described as red and white in the many old texts in which it appeared. These colours were important in most accounts of alchemy, and were often interpreted as having symbolic meaning.[2] Flamel's stone was a red crystalline object.

According to a page in Advanced Potion-Making, "the Philosopher's Stone was believed to mystically amplify the user's knowledge of alchemy so much that anything was attainable."[13]

Behind the scenes

  • The Stone is known in the United States books and films as the Sorcerer's Stone (with the exception of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, where it is referenced as "the Philosopher's Stone"). This was so because American children were believed to be not as familiar with the real-world mythology surrounding the Philosopher's Stone and to enhance the connection of the first book with magic.

The Philosopher's Stone as seen in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

  • Historically for Alchemists, the Philosopher's stone was a symbol of achieving perfection, a theme that is carried throughout the Harry Potter series as Harry goes through a "Refiner's Fire" or "Crucible", and becomes the man he is at the end of the series.
  • Five years after the stone's destruction, Harry suggested that if Voldemort was obsessed with immortality, he could either create or steal a Philosopher's Stone, implying that the one created by Flamel was not unique, nor is the method, or believing Voldemort is magically intelligent enough to duplicate the method.[11]
    • Though Flamel's stone is the only one known to have been created, the method could theoretically be duplicated. However, given that alchemists throughout history have attempted to create the stone but only one is known to have been successful indicates the process is nearly impossibly difficult and impractical as a means for Voldemort's resurrection.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Neville Longbottom mistakenly calls it the "Philological Stone" ("Sorcerous Stone" in the U.S. edition) when discussing Harry's past achievements.[12][14]

Appearances

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Notes and references

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