Opera-Glasses

Everything about the opera conveys refined elegance and glamour, from the grand stage productions with rich, opulent sets and fairy-tale gowns to the rows of well-turned- out ladies and gentlemen peering through opera glasses.

The earliest opera glasses, which appeared in London as early as 1730, took the form of a long collapsible telescope, often covered in enamel, gemstones, ivory, or hand- painted with popular artistic images of the time. The first handheld version of opera glasses showed up in Vienna in 1823. Known as theater binoculars or Galilean binoculars (named for Italian inventor and philosopher Galileo), they were constructed of two telescopes with a bridge in the center that could be adjusted independently to achieve proper focus.

By the mid-19th century, opera glasses had become must-have fashion accessories for wealthy theater-goers. They would ultimately be intricately decorated, encrusted with fine jewels, and attached to long handles before evolving into the modern opera glasses so appreciated today. Antique pairs of opera glasses are often found on the auction block. Especially popular are fine jeweler-crafted precious metal and enameled examples and mother of pearl opera glasses by the likes of Parisian maker Lemaire.


Quick Facts

  • In 2009 at Christie's in New York, a pair of circa 1880 carved ivory opera glasses trimmed in gold and enamel sold for $25,000
  • In 2002, opera glasses carried into Ford's Theatre by President Lincoln the night of his assassination—believed to have fallen from his hand after he was fatally shot—sold for $424,000 at a Christie's New York auction
  • A pair of unsigned enamel and gilt opera glasses with mother-of-pearl eye pieces in a Cartier case sold at a 2011 Bonhams auction in London for £2,250

Recommended Items at Auction

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A Pair of Antique Mother of Pearl French Opera Glasses
Oct 23, 10:00 AM CDT
A Pair of Antique Mother of Pearl French Opera Glasses
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $125- $150
$1253 Bids
Tiffany & Co. Mother of Pearl Opera Glasses, Made in France, Early 20th Century
Oct 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Tiffany & Co. Mother of Pearl Opera Glasses, Made in France, Early 20th Century
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $250- $500
$1751 Bid
Crystar Lens 25x Foldable Opera Glasses
Oct 21, 10:00 AM EDT
Crystar Lens 25x Foldable Opera Glasses
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$11 Bid
3 Prs. Antique French Opera Glasses
Oct 27, 12:00 PM EDT
3 Prs. Antique French Opera Glasses
by C Biddle Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$100 Bids
TWO MOTHER OF PEARL OPERA GLASSES
Oct 27, 10:00 AM EDT
TWO MOTHER OF PEARL OPERA GLASSES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1250 Bids
A PAIR OF LATE 19TH CENTURY OPERA GLASSES BY LEMAIRE, PARIS, the gilt body decorated with figures, flowers, m
Oct 21, 10:30 AM BST
A PAIR OF LATE 19TH CENTURY OPERA GLASSES BY LEMAIRE, PARIS, the gilt body decorated with figures, flowers, m
by John Nicholsons Fine Art Auctioneer & Valuer
Est: £150- £200
£1300 Bids
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Binocular plegable realizado en plata Vermeil y metal dorado.
Oct 27, 4:30 PM CEST
Binocular plegable realizado en plata Vermeil y metal dorado.
by Arte Subastas Bilbao
Est: €0- €0
€1500 Bids
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Catalejo de teatro realizado en metal dorado y nácar.
Oct 26, 4:30 PM CEST
Catalejo de teatro realizado en metal dorado y nácar.
by Arte Subastas Bilbao
Est: €0- €0
€1100 Bids
A PAIR OF BRASS AND LEATHER COVERED OPERA GLASSES, LATE 19TH/EARLY 20TH CENTURY
Oct 21, 9:30 AM BST
A PAIR OF BRASS AND LEATHER COVERED OPERA GLASSES, LATE 19TH/EARLY 20TH CENTURY
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £40- £60
£100 Bids
14K GOLD FOLDING LORGNETTE OPERA GLASSES
Oct 26, 11:00 AM EDT
14K GOLD FOLDING LORGNETTE OPERA GLASSES
by Westport Auction
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
ANTIQUE FRENCH RAILROAD LANTERN & OPERA GLASSES
Oct 26, 11:00 AM EDT
ANTIQUE FRENCH RAILROAD LANTERN & OPERA GLASSES
by Westport Auction
Est: $50- $1,000
$500 Bids
A pair of 19th century opera glasses wit
Oct 21, 1:00 PM BST
A pair of 19th century opera glasses wit
by Kinghams Auctioneers
Est: £40- £60
£250 Bids
Binoculars/opera glasses, c. 1900
Nov 05, 10:00 AM CET
Binoculars/opera glasses, c. 1900
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€7000 Bids
Mother Of Pearl Lemaire Fabt Opera Glasses
Nov 07, 3:00 PM PDT
Mother Of Pearl Lemaire Fabt Opera Glasses
by Clark's Auction Company
Est: $80- $120
$400 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Opera-Glasses


Westport Auction

Westport Auction

Arte Subastas Bilbao

Arte Subastas Bilbao

Link Auction Galleries

Link Auction Galleries

John Nicholsons Fine Art Auctioneer & Valuer

John Nicholsons Fine Art Auctioneer & Valuer