Amazingly miniaturized, peephole sized image charms seemed to have followed quickly upon the new-found public fascination and popularity of photography in the mid-19th century. These exquisite charms were named for the Third Earl of Stanhope, Charles (1753-1816) even though he had nothing to do with their invention. He is credited with inventing the Stanhope Lens that was a hand-held viewer used to magnify the view of an object under its lens. Stanhope died long before his magnifying viewer became popularly used when manufacturing image charms and other novelty souvenir and gift-like items. The charms peeked in popularity during the period from 1870-1920. However, general manufacture of this jewelry type continued through the 1970s and today some models are still made and sold by Stanhope Jewelry in Mechanicsburg, Penn.

The French Popularize Stanhope Charms A lens-maker/photographer by the name of Benjamin Dancer created the very first micro-photographs. These needed to be placed between glass slides and viewed by a microscope. Dancer showed David Brewster, the kaleidoscope inventor, his microphotographs who became enthusiastically impressed. Brewster got together with a French photographer named Rene Dagron who ran with the concept. Dragon made pin-head sized photos and attached these to the flat-side of a magnifying glass.

A Variety of Objects Used These were inserted into all kinds of objects knives, pens and small jewelry such as charms. Although the lens was actually a Coddington magnifier, Dagron named it a Stanhope honoring the man who had created a magnifying lens almost a century earlier. Dagron's choice for a name stuck and the French, as a nation, became obsessed with the charms and other souvenir items helping to spread its popularity throughout Europe and eventually to America.

All Kinds of Images Used Small images of all types have been used in Stanhope Charms. Not only have people images been a popular choice, but photos of the home, a vacation spot, holy locations, churches, images of saints and even favorite pets have been memorialized in tiny picture form inside a charm. Many images used were so small that a magnifying glass was needed to set the image in the charm that was attached to a magnifier itself. Jewelry fast became the popular choice to house a peephole-sized image with a charm as the best vehicle. People would contract a local photographer to produce a peephole-sized portrait or purchase readily available themed charms.

Popular ones of the day were pinhead-sized images of the Ten Commandments or the Lord's Prayer.


Jill Taylor

Date 3/4/2013


Date 2/27/2021

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