The primum movens in cholesterol gallstone formation is hypersecretion of hepatic cholesterol, chronic surpersaturation of bile with cholesterol and rapid precipitation of cholesterol crystals in the gallbladder from cholesterol-enriched vesicles. Associated events include biochemical defects (increased biliary mucin, and increased proportions of hydrophobic bile salts in the intestine and gallbladder), motility defects (gallbladder smooth muscle hypocontractility in vitro and gallbladder stasis in vivo, sluggish intestinal transit), and an abnormal genetic background. The study of physical-chemical factors and pathways leading to cholesterol crystallization in bile has clinical relevance and the task can be carried out in different ways. The lithogenicity of bile is investigated in artificial model biles made by three biliary lipids - cholesterol, bile salts and phospholipids - variably combined in systems plotting within the equilibrium ternary phase diagram; also, crystallization propensity of ex vivo incubated human bile is studied by biochemical analysis of precipitated crystals, polarizing quantitative light microscopy and turbidimetric methods. The present review will focus on the recent advances in the field of pathobiology of cholesterol gallstones, by underscoring the role of early events like water transport, lipid transport, crystallization phenomena - including a genetic background - in gallstone pathogenesis. Agents delaying or preventing precipitation of cholesterol crystals and gallstone formation in bile will also be discussed.