Nephrolithiasis, or stones, is one of the oldest urological diseases, with descriptions and treatment strategies dating back to ancient times. Despite the enormous number of patients affected by stones, a surprising lack of conceptual understanding of many aspects of this disease still exists. This lack of understanding includes mechanisms of stone formation and retention, the clinical relevance of different stone compositions and that of formation patterns and associated pathological features to the overall course of the condition. Fortunately, a number of new tools are available to assist in answering such questions. New renal endoscopes enable kidney visualization in much higher definition than was previously possible, while micro-CT imaging is the optimal technique for assessment of stone microstructure and mineral composition in a nondestructive fashion. Together, these tools have the potential to provide novel insights into the aetiology of stone formation that might unlock new prevention and treatment strategies, and enable more effective management of patients with nephrolithiasis.