Inside each Little Stardust piece lies the historically rich micro-photo viewer, 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 “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 American violin maker in Pennsylvania was introduced to an antique picture bow containing one the incredible curios. 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.