So what were glasses first made of? Early artefacts of eyewear that have been found are typically made out of wood, leather, or sometimes animal horn. Nowadays, most people you see wearing glasses will be wearing acrylic, acetate or metal frames. Depending on the acetate, this might be a cotton based acetate, or a plastic based acetate. And for the metal, this is usually aluminium, but can be steel, copper, titanium, or even 18k gold or .925 silver.
Although there are still many benefits to using horn, wood, or leather in eyewear, they are very inflexible materials. This means you need a specialist and skilled optician who can work with such materials.
The reason why certain materials require a specialist optician is due to the inflexibility of the material mentioned previously. Lenses are typically placed into frames via heat expanding the frame, or unscrewing the metal plates that hold lenses. When you work with wood, horn, or leather, you do not have the ability to use heat or screws. This means that you need a deft hand to apply a lens without damaging the frame, and it's a risk not many opticians like to take when they only work with more modern acetate frames.
So what are the benefits of these different materials? Allow me to tell you!
A modern classic. Most frames are made from acetate due to their colour variety (acetate can pretty much be any colour you want), lamination possibility (you can fuse colours together), lightweight design and flexibility. If you want a specific frame shape, acetate will almost always be the easiest material to make the frames from. Not all acetate is created equally however. For example, Jacques Marie Mage
uses 12mm acetate from their vault in Japan. This is an extremely thick acetate compared to normal, and is what adds to their weight, quality, and robustness of their pieces.
Metal is an ideal for multiple reasons. Many prefer metal frames due their frequency to use nose-pads, allowing a more comfortable and specific fit. Metal frames often don't require heat to have lens placed in them either, allowing for a very easy fitting when adding lenses. Metal is a very vague term however. You get individuals such as Haffmans and Neumeister
who use laser cut steel to create a hingeless and ultra lightweight design that is also extremely durable.
In contrast, you have Rigards
who use stainless steel, copper, .925 silver, and aluminium-magnesium composites to achieve certain finishes and styles. Most of Rigards
Copper pieces develop a natural patina over time, and they also do some of the finest silver work of any brand thanks to their collaborations with their own craftspeople, Detaj, and Tacet.
Horn frames you get today are typically made from Buffalo horn. This is a natural byproduct of the buffalo meat industry, and helps avoid there being waste. Buffalo horn can range in colour and pattern, making each frame created very unique and distinctive. Horn frames are also some of the softest and lightest frames you can get, making them extremely comfortable also. Horn frames are typically described as like wearing silk. You won't find anything else that is so breathable, comfortable, and light. Rigards
is one of our favourite artisans for such pieces.
Wooden frames are ideal for people looking to create specific textures or finishes thanks to how versatile a material wood is. It is also comfortable to wear and has a distinctive look. Wood is a popular material for those looking for something unique and one-of-a-kind
3D printed frames are a newer creation. These frames often boast unique structures and also being very lightweight. Often 3D printed frames are chosen specifically due to their unique structure, as they do have similar properties and colour options as many acetate frames.
Did you know eyewear materials varied so much? Leave us a comment of any other materials you can think of!