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.