New in the shop today are two pretty, Georgian Era magnifying lenses. The first, pictured above, is a jeweller's loupe made from lignum vitae dating from around the 1820s.
Lignum vitae, "the wood of life", is a uniquely dense and durable wood with attractive colour striations. Found in the Caribbean and South America, it became popular in Europe during the 18th century for small luxury items. (Its unique properties also made it important to ship building, and it still has maritime and industrial uses.) Products such as mortars and pestles and drinking cups are commonly found in lignum vitae, but its use here in a jeweller's loupe is more unusual.
As well as being attractive, this loupe is in very good working order and magnifies well. I'm tempted to keep it for my own work!
The second item is this elegant tortoiseshell entomologist's lens made around 1800.
Entomology is the study of insects, and magnifiers of this type were popular among both amateur and professional naturalists during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The tiny lens is incredibly powerful - positioned very closely between the eye and the subject it reveals the minute details of an insect or plant's structure. Most lenses of this type were fairly utilitarian, and elegant examples in luxury materials such as this one are now scarce.
It's too small for me to take an action shot, but the lens is quite clear apart from a little dust around the edges, and it magnifies very well. Another item I'd love to keep for myself.
Both these lenses can be found in our online shop: