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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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Lemaire Fab Paris Opera Glasses
Mar 05, 9:00 AM EST
Lemaire Fab Paris Opera Glasses
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$103 Bids
V&M Opera Glasses
Mar 05, 9:00 AM EST
V&M Opera Glasses
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$62 Bids
FRENCH ENAMELED BRASS OPERA GLASSES.
Mar 08, 11:00 AM EST
FRENCH ENAMELED BRASS OPERA GLASSES.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $75- $125
$401 Bid
FOUR BINOCULARS AND OPERA GLASSES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
FOUR BINOCULARS AND OPERA GLASSES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $400
$501 Bid
LORGNETTE AND QUIZZER
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
LORGNETTE AND QUIZZER
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
COLLECTION OF FOUR OPERA GLASSES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
COLLECTION OF FOUR OPERA GLASSES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
COLLECTION OF FOUR OPERA GLASSES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
COLLECTION OF FOUR OPERA GLASSES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
THREE OPERA GLASSES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
THREE OPERA GLASSES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$501 Bid
Verdi Pauls Opera Glasses
Mar 05, 9:00 AM EST
Verdi Pauls Opera Glasses
by Wehrly's Auction Service
Est: $0- $0
$21 Bid
Vtg Carl Zeiss Jena Theatis Gold Tn Opera Glasses
Mar 20, 10:00 AM EDT
Vtg Carl Zeiss Jena Theatis Gold Tn Opera Glasses
by The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.
Est: $50- $100
$11 Bid
Vintage Falcon Deluxe Mother of Pearl Opera Glasses
Mar 20, 10:00 AM EDT
Vintage Falcon Deluxe Mother of Pearl Opera Glasses
by The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.
Est: $50- $100
$11 Bid
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LORGNETTE
Mar 06, 11:00 AM GMT
LORGNETTE
by Bonhams
Est: £2,200- £2,500
£2,2000 Bids
Group of Optical Materials
Mar 05, 12:00 PM EST
Group of Optical Materials
by Old Kinderhook Auction Company
Est: $50- $100
$200 Bids
19TH-CENTURY DUBLIN MOTHER O'PEARL OPERA GLASSES
Mar 05, 10:00 AM GMT
19TH-CENTURY DUBLIN MOTHER O'PEARL OPERA GLASSES
by Sheppards
Est: €200- €300
€1200 Bids
Spyglass and Opera Glasses, 4
Mar 12, 11:00 AM EDT
Spyglass and Opera Glasses, 4
by Auctions at Showplace
Est: $300- $500
$1000 Bids
19TH C. FRENCH ENAMEL OPERA BINOCULAR GLASSES
Mar 08, 1:30 PM PST
19TH C. FRENCH ENAMEL OPERA BINOCULAR GLASSES
by Auction Plus, Inc.
Est: $2,500- $3,000
$1,5000 Bids
Lorgnette, fine enamelled light blue handle with pink roses, length 13cm *1
Mar 16, 1:00 PM CET
Lorgnette, fine enamelled light blue handle with pink roses, length 13cm *1
by Auktionshaus am See
Est: €0- €0
€300 Bids
TWO SILVER LORGNETTES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
TWO SILVER LORGNETTES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$500 Bids
FRENCH LORGNETTE
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
FRENCH LORGNETTE
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
TWO SILVER LORGNETTES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
TWO SILVER LORGNETTES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $300
$500 Bids
TWO LORGNETTES
Mar 15, 10:00 AM CDT
TWO LORGNETTES
by Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Three opera glasses + 2 folding binoculars, includ…
Mar 11, 9:00 PM CET
Three opera glasses + 2 folding binoculars, includ…
by Venduehuis Dickhaut Maastricht
Est: €40- €100
€200 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Opera-Glasses


Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers

Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers

Wehrly's Auction Service

Wehrly's Auction Service

Venduehuis Dickhaut Maastricht

Venduehuis Dickhaut Maastricht

The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.

The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.