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  • Item Category: Furniture & Furnishings
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Mar 28, 2008
  • Channel: Auction House

EXQUISITE circa 1870 LEMAIRE PARIS OPERA GLASSES with AUTHENTIC "BEE" MARK and #63 , FINEST HAND PAINTED ENAMEL ON BRASS " COURTING SCENE AND BUILDINGS ", MOTHER-OF-PEARL EYE PIECES and ADJUSTING SCREW, SIGNED " GEO C. SHREVE & CO. SAN FRANCISCO ", in ORIGINAL CONDITION with RARE ORIGINAL PATINA! One of the Finest Pair of the Most Coveted Mid-Nineteenth Century Manufacturer's Opera Glasses that I have ever come across!! LeMaire has been a name known around the world since 1650, when Jacques LeMaire and his son Pierre became famous in Paris as makers of optical instruments. Their work with Magic Lanterns, a lighted box that could be used to view pictures, in the 1700's helped pave the way for early cinematography. In 1839, a version of the Magic Lantern called the Polyorama Panoptique , was produced by LeMaire. Around this same time, opera glasses were invented in Vienna and LeMaire quickly began to make the finest opera glasses in Paris, and in the world. At the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the jurors praised the LeMaire opera glasses with their " Trade mark of a Bee with outstretched wings ".

This Pair of LeMaire Opera Glasses carries the LeMaire trademark " Bee " etched on the underside of the center bar, as well as the number " 63 " (you always need to use a magnifying glass to see the manufacturers mark on early opera glasses), which authenticates them as having been manufactured by LeMaire in Paris in the nineteenth century. They also have " Geo C. Shreve & Co, San Francisco " printed on the Mother-of-Pearl eyepieces, which helps to further pinpoint the date they were made. George Shreve and his brother Samuel came to San Francisco from New York right after the California Gold Rush of 1849. They started a small jewelry and silversmith business in 1852 and called it the "Shreve Jewelry Co". When Samuel died in 1857, George changed the name to "Geo C. Shreve & Co". They were considered the one of the finest silversmiths in the country in the 1880s. His company kept this name until 1890, when he changed the name again to "Shreve & Co". The company is still in business today, celebrating its 150 th birthday in 2002. These Opera Glasses were imported from France for the Shreve company sometime between 1857 and 1890. This style of LeMaire glasses dates to circa 1870, which agrees with the provenance of the Shreve company dating. These exact opera glasses are listed in the book " Spectacles and Other Vision Aids, A History and Guide to Collecting ", by J. William Rosenthal.

To learn more about the history of opera glasses, and see some similar to these, check out the following site:


A word about the Napoleonic hand painted scenes on this pair of opera glasses; you will never find more exquisite or finely drawn scenes on any pair of antique Parisian opera glasses. I have seen many of these miniature enamel paintings, some auctioned at Sotheby's for over $2000, but none with the skill level of this artist. I have looked closely with a magnifying glass for a signature, but can find none, unfortunately.

The condition of this pair of glasses is quite good. T is some crystalizing of the glass on the outer edge moving toward the center of one large lens from age. The paintings and enamel are near mint! Any spotting in the photos is reflection from the sun. The Mother-of-Pearl is all still near mint! They measure 4" wide and 3" long when opened. The most remarkable thing about this pair is that through the 140 years, no one has attempted to remove the original finish from the brass. Usually you find these type of glasses with a brilliant finish; all the original patina (and value) removed. The buyer can clean them as gently as they wish. I have left them as found, which is with a vintage brass patina. These Opera Glasses are made by the highly coveted French manufacturer LEMAIRE , in the finest French design with masterpiece enamel scen...