touchstone

[tuhch-stohn]
noun
1.
a test or criterion for the qualities of a thing.
2.
a black siliceous stone formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the color of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal.

Origin:
1475–85; touch + stone


1. standard, measure, model, pattern.
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World English Dictionary
touchstone (ˈtʌtʃˌstəʊn)
 
n
1.  a criterion or standard by which judgment is made
2.  a hard dark siliceous stone, such as basalt or jasper, that is used to test the quality of gold and silver from the colour of the streak they produce on it

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

touchstone
late 15c., from touch (v.) + stone. Black quartz, used for testing the quality of gold and silver alloys by the color of the streak made by rubbing them on it. Cf. also basalt. Figurative sense is from 1530s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
His rational worldview became a touchstone for both supporters and critics.
Because, he responded, this is a common touchstone of human experience.
The essay became a touchstone in the heyday of literary theory, reprinted in a
  slew of anthologies and cited copiously.
The first virtue, the touchstone of a masculine style, is its use of the active
  verb and the concrete noun.
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