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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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A Pair of Hamblin, London Rolled Gold Lorgnettes
Sep 28, 6:00 PM AEST
A Pair of Hamblin, London Rolled Gold Lorgnettes
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD353 Bids
French Bronze Enamel & Pearl Opera Glasses / Binoculars
Oct 02, 10:00 AM PDT
French Bronze Enamel & Pearl Opera Glasses / Binoculars
by Taylor & Harris
Est: $400- $500
$3000 Bids
French Bronze and Enamel Opera Glasses / Binoculars
Oct 02, 10:00 AM PDT
French Bronze and Enamel Opera Glasses / Binoculars
by Taylor & Harris
Est: $150- $200
$1300 Bids
Grouping Of Five Opera Glasses
Oct 14, 11:00 AM EDT
Grouping Of Five Opera Glasses
by DuMouchelles
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
PAIR OF FOLDING THEATER GLASSES
Oct 15, 9:30 AM CEST
PAIR OF FOLDING THEATER GLASSES
by La Galerie Numismatique
Est: €140- €280
€100 Bids
19TH C. FRENCH ENAMEL OPERA BINOCULAR GLASSES
Oct 01, 11:00 AM PDT
19TH C. FRENCH ENAMEL OPERA BINOCULAR GLASSES
by Auction Plus, Inc.
Est: $2,500- $3,000
$1,5000 Bids
18Kt GOLD LORGNETTE
Oct 26, 3:00 PM CEST
18Kt GOLD LORGNETTE
by International Art Sale Italy
Est: €400- €600
€4000 Bids
A Pair of Bower & Ferguson Opera Glasses
Sep 28, 6:00 PM AEST
A Pair of Bower & Ferguson Opera Glasses
by Theodore Bruce
Est: AUD60- AUD120
AUD300 Bids
JUMELLES DE THÉÂTRE EN MÉTAL DORÉ ET NACRE Marquées Fratelli Bren
Oct 02, 2:00 PM CEST
JUMELLES DE THÉÂTRE EN MÉTAL DORÉ ET NACRE Marquées Fratelli Bren
by Oise Encheres
Est: €40- €60
€400 Bids
THREE PAIRS OF OPERA GLASSES.
Sep 29, 10:30 AM BST
THREE PAIRS OF OPERA GLASSES.
by John Nicholson's Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: £100- £150
£900 Bids
CARTIER, A PAIR OF BELLE EPOQUE ENAMEL AND MOTHER OF PEARL OPERA GLASSES designed with mother of
Sep 28, 2:00 PM BST
CARTIER, A PAIR OF BELLE EPOQUE ENAMEL AND MOTHER OF PEARL OPERA GLASSES designed with mother of
by Elmwood's
Est: £4,000- £6,000
£3,2000 Bids
Mother-of-pearl opera glasses and Quick-sight binoculars from the brand Selcol.
Sep 28, 7:00 PM CEST
Mother-of-pearl opera glasses and Quick-sight binoculars from the brand Selcol.
by Vendu Rotterdam
Est: €20- €40
€100 Bids
F KUHN LUZERN MOP OPERA GLASSES
Oct 02, 1:00 PM EDT
F KUHN LUZERN MOP OPERA GLASSES
by Charleston Estate Auctions
Est: $200- $300
$50 Bids
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OPERNGLAS, SEHR GUTER ZUSTAND, PERLMUTTAUFLAGEN
Oct 01, 11:00 AM CEST
OPERNGLAS, SEHR GUTER ZUSTAND, PERLMUTTAUFLAGEN
by Auktionshalle Cuxhaven
Est: €0- €0
€100 Bids
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ALTES OPERNGLAS, MESSING MIT PERLMUTT
Oct 01, 11:00 AM CEST
ALTES OPERNGLAS, MESSING MIT PERLMUTT
by Auktionshalle Cuxhaven
Est: €0- €0
€50 Bids
2 sterling lorgnette & a sterling necklace w/ marcasite
Oct 05, 2:00 PM PDT
2 sterling lorgnette & a sterling necklace w/ marcasite
by International Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Victorian Opera Glasses
Oct 02, 1:00 PM EDT
Victorian Opera Glasses
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $50- $500
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Opera-Glasses


Vendu Rotterdam

Vendu Rotterdam

Theodore Bruce

Theodore Bruce

Auktionshalle Cuxhaven

Auktionshalle Cuxhaven

Taylor & Harris

Taylor & Harris