Optical Bijou or Stanhopes

Inside each Little Stardust piece lies the historically rich optical bijou, otherwise known as the Stanhope. In the 1700s, the third Lord Charles of Stanhope developed a miniaturized quartz biconvex lens measuring 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter, with an impressive 160x magnifying power. Originally used as a field microscope for naturalists, the Stanhope lens’s applications were broadened in the 1860s by the Parisian inventor of the micro-photograph, Rene Dagron (who named his invention after Lord Charles). Dragon’s the “Stanhope” viewers—or optical bijou—became a personal window to the infinite imagery that could be captured with what was then another recent invention: photography. The Stanhopes uses subsequently ranged from a way to smuggle sensitive documents during wartime to a means of “safekeeping” erotic photos.

By the 1970s, Stanhopes were no longer being produced. However, in 1993, a renowned violin maker was introduced to an antique picture bow containing a Stanhope. Awed by its clarity and uniqueness, he immediately decided to revive the tradition. Today, even collectors find it difficult to discern our perfectly crafted Stanhope lenses from the originals.

Lord Charles of Stanhope

Lord Charles of Stanhope

A souvenir Stanhope from Jerusalem. Photographed by Sol Legault. Courtesy of  The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction .

A souvenir Stanhope from Jerusalem. Photographed by Sol Legault. Courtesy of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

Left: A microphotograph of the French Royal Family. Right: An image of Queen Victoria celebrating the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

Left: A microphotograph of the French Royal Family. Right: An image of Queen Victoria celebrating the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

In 1906, a monument was dedicated to the balloonists, pigeons, and microphotographs that made communication possible during the 1871 Siege of Paris. The memorial was destroyed during World War II.

In 1906, a monument was dedicated to the balloonists, pigeons, and microphotographs that made communication possible during the 1871 Siege of Paris. The memorial was destroyed during World War II.