Antique Magnifying Glasses



2015-06-26 11:17:02

Antique Magnifying Glasses are hand-held objects featuring lenses which magnify objects.

Brief history and description

Antique magnifying glasses have been used as tools for centuries to help make words, images or objects seem larger than they appear.

The use of magnifying glasses dates back to as far back as the 11th century, when monks used to place a reading stone crafted from rock crystal, beryl or glass on text to help magnify words on a page.

Over time, the frames of magnifying glasses have been crafted from a variety of different materials, such as horn (which was popular during the 1700s), wood (circa 1800s), ivory and sterling silver (after 1887), brass, gold, pink enamel, rock or jade (circa 1900), or tortoise shell and sterling silver (early 1900s).

Guide for collectors

Magnifying glasses that were crafted between the 1700s and the early 1900s are considered to be the most rare among collectors, while oriental-style antique magnifying glasses are considered to be both valuable and rare.

Antique magnifying glasses that are sold as part of a complete desk set (consisting of paper holders, stamp boxes, pens, etc.) are also considered to be rare and valuable.

Restoration of an antique magnifying glass is recommended, but only if there is noticeable damage. However, restoring an antique magnifying glass may decrease its value.

For more information regarding antique magnifying glasses, visit the American Glass Museum.


Showplace Antique + Design Center in New York sold an Art Nouveau-style magnifying glass with a sterling silver handle and a leaf and flower motif (circa 1900 to 1910) for $1,150 in February of 2009.

Elite Decorative Arts in Boynton Beach, Florida sold a Chinese hand-carved ivory magnifying glass with a figural dragon garment hook, a gold metalware frame and bamboo chase work for $700 in November of 2011.

Bill Hood & Sons Art & Antique Auctions in Delray Beach, Florida sold two antique 14K yellow gold magnifying glasses for $425 in November of 2010.

DuMouchelles in Detroit, Michigan sold an antique brass-plated adjustable magnifying glass (circa 1900) for $150 in March of 2005.

Bill Hood & Sons Art & Antique Auctions in Delray Beach, Florida sold a large magnifying glass with an old umbrella/cane bronze handle for $25 in May of 2010.

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