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What is Cellulose Acetate?

If you are looking for vintage classes from the 1940s, 50s, or even today, one of the common terms that you will come across is cellulose acetate. Since the 1940s, this has been the dominant material for any plastic frames on the market. 

Also occasionally known as simply acetate or zyl, all of these describe a high quality plastic that has historically been used in everything from affordable frames to designer frames with attractive results that last for many years.

The Process for Making Cellulose Acetate Glasses 

The discovery of cellulose acetate occurred in 1865, but it would not be until the 1900s that this material started to see more widespread use starting with film for cameras and motion pictures, playing cards, the original Lego bricks in the 1950s, and clothing as acetate fibers. By the 1940s, it was also the main material for vintage plastic glasses frames.

Cellulose acetate is a bio plastic. The cellulose in the name refers to the wood pulp from which the plastic is derived. By the cellulose from the wood pulp with various acids, a chemical reaction creates the rigid cellulose acetate plastic. 

By the 1940s, manufacturers perfected the production process and were able to create high quality glasses with many customization options very quickly, making glasses more affordable for the average consumer. The process for making acetate glasses looks like this:

  • Making Acetate Sheets – One of the main beauties of acetate glasses are the range of colors. This starts in the acetate manufacturing process when the technician adds colors to sheets of acetate, sandwiching many sheets together to create the desired color, layering effects, and thickness. When complete, the sheets cure in a kiln for a number of weeks.
  • Frame Cutting – Next, the frame manufacturer will cut the frame and temples out of the acetate sheets. Today, this process is done with computers and routers, but in the past it was done by hand. Steel dies punch out the general shape of the frame and then the technician can trim off any excess plastic, add nose bridges, and use heat to soften the plastic and create curves. They may also insert a steel wire into the temple piece for added stability.
  • Polishing and Finishing – The manufacturer polishes all of the individual pieces to show off the natural luster of cellulose acetate.
  • Assembly – The final step is to attach the temples to the frames and insert lenses if necessary.

Cellulose acetate has many advantages as a glasses material. Despite the short lifespan many other early plastics – and many plastics today – zyl frames will last for decades. The plastic has enough flexibility and durability that it does not easily crack, and because the color is embedded into the acetate rather than painted on or injected, it does not fade over time. Acetate also has the benefit of being hypoallergenic. 

When you want a pair of vintage plastic glasses that truly embodies a classic look from the 50s, 60s, 70s, or later decades, acetate is the best material. Eyeglasses Warehouse offers vintage cellulose acetate glasses in a range of colors, including everything from black to bright, multicolored frames, and popular shapes like cat eye glasseshorn rimmed glassesbrowline glasses, and others.

The majority of our genuine vintage glasses are optical ready frames made from high quality cellulose acetate that will keep your glasses looking good for decades to come. Browse our inventory of plastic glasses to see all of the amazing styles that are possible with cellulose acetate.

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Would You Qualify for GI Glasses in World War II? 

When America entered World War II and issued the draft, the military was quickly met with a problem of manpower. Millions of men did not qualify for service because they had either bad teeth or bad eyesight. 

With the Army facing a troop shortage of almost a million men, they were forced to rethink the qualification requirements, particularly in terms of vision. The result was an interesting standard for who was able to serve and, once enlisted, which US soldiers received military-issued eyeglasses for vision correction. 

Glasses for Soldiers in WWII

Looking at photos of soldiers in World War II, glasses are not often a common sight. This is somewhat understandable since combat requires high energy activities and having glasses slip off could be extremely dangerous in a high stakes situation.

But troop shortages meant that the Army had to send even those with less than 20/20 vision to the front lines, and after the initial months of low draft numbers, the military lowered the standard to 20/200 vision as long as glasses could correct it to at least 20/40.

Today, 20/200 is considered legally blind. To put this into perspective, if you consider the Snellen vision chart that is most often used for eye examinations, 20/200 means that the person can make out only the top line from 20 feet away.

20/40 vision was required – whether through natural or corrected vision – for a man to be sent to the front. On that same vision chart, 20/40 means a person can read the fifth line from 20 feet away. A person with 20/40 vision would need to stand twice as close to an object as someone with average 20/20 vision to clearly see it. The military determined that this was satisfactory for service.

The result was that the military did not generally issue glasses for soldiers who had 20/40 vision or better. 

The 20/40 vision requirement is a significant difference from today’s practice of prescribing glasses to most people with less than 20/20 vision, although this was not limited solely to the military. Many opticians for the general public also would not prescribe glasses for vision that was better than 20/40, but it made more sense during war time due to extensive shortages in materials and available factory space for manufacturing anything that was not required for the war effort.

For some, this was preferred since fighting with glasses could be cumbersome. Some recruits memorized the Snellen chart so they could convince the optician they had better vision.

But the use of military glasses in WWII exposes yet another one of the hardships on the front lines. It is alarming to consider what it would mean if a soldier with 20/200 vision lost or broke his glasses on the front line, or a soldier with 20/40 vision struggling to see small details at even 20 feet away.

These requirements also only applied to combat units, such as infantry. Those working in medical units and other operations could have lower vision, although many still operated in high risk situations at different times.

While there were some limitations on who qualified for vintage GI glasses during World War II, there were still millions of pairs produced and hundreds available today for anyone who wants to own and wear a piece of history. Fortunately, you are also able to change out the lenses with your specific prescription, even if that is 20/40.

Eyeglasses Warehouse has many pairs of vintage P-3 military glasses in our inventory for WWII reenactors and daily wear. Check out our available options for these and other eras today.

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How to Swap Out Lenses in Vintage Glasses

If you are new to wearing vintage eyewear, whether antique spectacles or retro sunglasses, the process for purchasing and wearing fashionable vintage eyewear with your preferred lenses may be somewhat different from your usual process of buying glasses online or through your optometrist and having the lenses already inserted when you receive them.

Vintage glasses will often come in one of three ways. If they were previously worn, they will likely already have a pair of sunglass lenses or prescription lenses in them, although unless you are very lucky, it is probably not a prescription that matches yours. New old stock vintage glasses, which are glasses that were never sold to a customer, may still have the demo lenses. Other vintage glasses may come without lenses at all if the original lenses cracked or were already taken out in preparation for sale.

As long as your vintage prescription glasses meet a few requirements, you can add in any lenses of your choice.

Which Vintage Glasses Can Fit Modern Lenses?

The first step when picking out vintage glasses to turn into a pair of everyday prescription glasses, vintage sunglasses, reenactment glasses, or simply a fun accessory – and the most fun step in the process – is to choose a frame style and design that you like. 

Shopping online is a great option for this because of the wide selection available and your ability to narrow down your options to the styles you are interested in. But it was also possible to find great vintage glasses at places like antique stores, estate sales, and flea markets.

While you are looking, you will want to keep these features in mind to increase the chances that your optometrist can successfully change out the lenses and that you will have a comfortable pair of glasses to wear afterward:

  • Size – Because many antique glasses are one of a kind, you need to be sure that the individual pair will fit your face for both comfort and suitable vision correction. Check out our measurement guide for how to measure for your glasses. With older glasses, especially from the 19th century, some frames were crafted specifically for the wearer, so the measurements may be non-standard.
  • Choose Ophthalmic Frames – Ophthalmic frames are those meant for prescription lenses, but are also suitable for tinted lenses and non-magnifying lenses. These glasses were made to have lenses replaced so the prescription could change. The majority of vintage glasses you find today will have a form of frames largely because cheaper non-ophthalmic sunglasses were not made to last and are no longer easily available.
  • Consider Your Material – While small points of wear are not usually an issue on vintage glasses, and in fact part of their charm, cracks or weak spots could put the glasses at risk when the optometrist is changing out the lenses or keep them from standing up to everyday wear. For this reason, you may want to choose a more durable material like gold or nickel alloy that is slower to wear. Plastics are fine unless there are significant scratches or cracks. Genuine tortoiseshell or horn glasses will tend to be more of a risk.
  • Limitations with Drill Mount Frames – A drill mount frame is one in which the lenses are attached via holes drilled through them. This has a few limitations on which prescriptions can be used and may not work if you require a more unique prescription.

If you do find your perfect pair of glasses, but there is some damage or you are unsure about the lens mount, you can always see if your optometrist can attempt to change the lens anyway, but know that there is slightly more risk of permanent damage to the frames.

Once you have found glasses with the right look and quality, you will need a professional optician to handle the lens replacement. You can work with your optician if you have one or find one in your area. There are also several companies online that will allow you to mail in your glasses to have the lenses changed and then send them back to you.

In our inventory Eyeglasses Warehouse, the majority of our genuine vintage glasses are ready for ready to have the lenses switched and be adapted for your daily wear since we have carefully chosen each pair of glasses for their quality and wearability. If your priority is style with need for function, we also offer some fun options for non-ophthalmic vintage sunglasses that make for stand out eyewear. Find your next pair of vintage glasses in our inventory today.

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Why Choose Vintage Frames for Your Next Pair of Eyeglasses or Sunglasses?

Eyeglasses are a great way to show your personality and style in addition to serving a functional purpose. They are a chance to bring color, dynamic shapes, and a unique accessory into your daily wear. But while your optician or favorite glasses shop likely has hundreds of frames to choose from, it can still be difficult to stand out with a pair of modern glasses and finding that perfect pair is still a challenge.

This is where vintage glasses frames can offer an alternative, as well as several additional benefits that make them the right choice for your sunglasses or eyeglasses. 

Top Reasons to Buy Vintage Eyeglass Frames for Modern Eyewear

The leading reason that more and more people are choosing vintage frames over modern ones is the design options. These frames offer iconic looks like vintage round glasses1950s browline glasses for mengold rimmed spectacles, and the antique glasses from the 1800s, all styles that are not necessarily easy to find today with modern glasses.

The modern evolution of retro styles are often significantly different. For instance, few pairs of modern cat eye frames can pull off the bold look of the 1950s cat eye glasses for women with the narrow lenses and sharply pointed corners, not to mention the rhinestones and gold filigree. 

The undeniably vintage look of a pair of genuine antique glasses also has something that new glasses, even when made in vintage styles, often cannot match. Maybe it is the original materials, production techniques, or, for gently used vintage glasses, the small signs of wear from being a previously beloved accessory.

But there are also some additional reasons to opt for vintage eyewear such as:

  • Vintage is in Style – Whether it is period dramas like Mad Men, Downton Abbey, or others where characters are wearing stylish antique glasses, or simply the idea that everything comes back in fashion eventually, vintage fashion is having a resurgence. Many types of vintage clothing, including vintage glasses, are more popular than ever. 
  • More Affordable – Despite their antique nature, many vintage glasses are reasonably affordable. Except for some highly collectible pairs that can be pricey, vintage glasses, especially from the 1940s, 50s, and later decades, were readily available at the time and you can often find your perfect pair available in your budget. 
  • Long Lasting – With some exceptions for authentic tortoise shell glasses and early plastics, many vintage glasses are extremely durable. Having already lasted for decades or sometimes more than a century, most of these spectacles will easily last for decades more. Many early glasses were handcrafted in limited numbers with an extreme focus on quality in each pair. The majority were also made in America.

One challenge with vintage eyewear is that some searching will often be necessary to find a pair that has the right style, quality, and size. Eyeglasses Warehouse is the best place to start with an inventory of antique glasses from the 1800s to early 1900s. Picture your perfect style or learn more about the styles available and start browsing our inventory to find your glasses today.

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Which Vintage Sunglass Brands are the Best? 

When looking at vintage sunglasses, there are hundreds of different types available, from unbranded mass market sunglasses to the highly collectible designer brands of the second half of the 20th century. The truth is that any optical quality glasses frame, like those you will find in our inventory at Eyeglasses Warehouse, can be made into a pair of sunglasses.

But if you are looking for a pair of genuine vintage sunglasses from a well known brand, these are the ones that have made history with their unique designs, celebrity associations, and enduring quality.

Leading Vintage Sunglasses Brands 

Sunglasses first appeared in the 1950s, and the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are often considered the height of sunglass design with an extensive variety of vintage sunglasses ranging from sleek and classic to avant garde and innovative.

Collectible vintage sunglasses that are most in demand today include:

  • Vintage Christian Dior Sunglasses – Dior was the first designer to design glasses, including vintage sunglasses. The designer vintage sunglasses were manufactured and sold by Tura Eyewear, featuring styles that went with fashion-forward looks and often had extensive ornamentation.
  • Vintage Ray-Ban Sunglasses – Bausch & Lomb originally designed Ray-Ban sunglasses for military pilots before they became a popular vintage men’s sunglass style. Top Ray-Ban models are vintage Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, vintage Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and vintage Ray-Ban Clubmasters.
  • Shuron Sunglasses – Shuron’s leading sunglasses were the Ronsirs, a browline sunglasses style that had dark frames  and was usually worn with dark lenses.
  • Genuine Universal Optical Sunglasses – Universal Optical created the Mansfield Square F770 vintage sunglasses that James Dean was famous for wearing. Vintage James Dean sunglasses nead black frames and nearly black lenses to complete the look.
  • Retro Cazal Sunglasses – Emerging into the world of sunglasses in the 1980s, Cazal created innovative styles that came to define fashion in the hip hop industry. 
  • Vintage Versace Sunglasses – A prolific designer in the late 70s and early 80s, Versace also designed many extravagant vintage sunglasses.

With the extensive range of vintage high quality sunglasses available today, it is possible to find a variety of glasses that will work with any style. You can also create an entirely unique pair when you choose vintage glasses frames in any style from Eyeglasses Warehouse and have your optician replace the lenses with your preferred color. 

Every pair of antique glasses and vintage frames for sale online at Eyeglasses Warehouse is suitable for a pair of vintage sunglasses while also providing you a one of a kind look. See all the different frame styles we have available from the different eras on our website and choose the style that will make your perfect pair of vintage sunglasses.

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Tura Cat Eye Glasses: The All-in-One Accessory for Women

In the first years of the 1950s, vintage women’s cat eye glasses were no longer simply a way to improve vision and protect the wearer’s eyes from sunlight. Eye glasses were now an accessory as well. Many women owned pairs in different colors and with different ornamentation so they could match their glasses to different outfits.

Eyewear company Tura encouraged this as their main strategy for selling their eyeglasses. Offering colors like turquoise and coral that they chose specifically to match the colors that would be at the height of fashion in the upcoming season. But in 1959, Tura took their glasses to fashion extremes with the introduction of the Turanette. Today, the Turaneete remains one of the more exciting and innovative ideas in eyewear, even if it did not persist much past the 1950s.

Tura Reinvents Vintage Glasses as Fashion Statements

Tura was a high end eyewear company. Established in the 1930s, they were a leading name in eyewear by the 1950s with careful construction, pricey materials, and a range of options. Their cat eye frames, generally made in aluminum, came in a range of different colors, which they marketed as “Vogue approved. ” Their ColorTura kit contained colors like orchid gold, mink brown, cherry red, and simulated pearl.

An important part of cat eye glasses has always been the decorative elements. Tura delivered with gold dot, silver filigree, hand engraving, ornamental roses, and jewel studding. Many of these different decorative elements were crafted with real gold and real diamonds, enabling a woman to choose and wear her Tura eyewear in the same manner which she would wear a new necklace or earrings.

Tura Designs a Completely New Style

With this foundation of design, Tura went a step further with glasses as jewelry and created the Turanette. These unique glasses use the standard decorative cat eye frames. To one temple, they added a decorative piece that angled upwards towards the top of the head. This formed a hairpiece that could also help hold a hairstyle in place.

Some of the common designs for this ornamental piece included:

  • Gold filigree with white pearl flowers.
  • Delicate gold leaves.
  • Silver vines studded with rhinestones.

The idea was to create a jewelry-like element that would carry the design from a woman’s glasses into her hair similar to the look of a tiara. In fact, the princess appearance was one of the ways that Tura marketed these glasses to women, branding them with names like “Cinderella.”

What is perhaps more interesting is the way Tura marketed their vintage cat eye frames to opthamologists who would then sell them to their patients. Advertising asserted that it is “a woman’s nature to change the things she wears” and that women indefinitely had “a craving for a new style.” 

This was the strategy Tura had been using since the founding of the company as they took care to always provide the latest styles and, more often than not, set the course for vintage eyewear for men and women.

Tura claimed that glasses design should not be ageless and glasses must never be thought of as devices. Instead, glasses, at least for women, must beautify and flatter and differ significantly from previous designs so women would see the purpose of purchasing new pairs even if the ones they had were already serviceable. 

This, along with Tura’s focus on making eyewear comparable to fine jewelry, played a large part in helping transform the way women perceived their glasses, switching to a standard where women owned several pairs of glasses and even more pairs of sunglasses with a pair to fit every outfit, mood, or occasion. 

As Tura’s advertising suggested, the Turanette could not stay around for long and had to be efficiently replaced with new and different styles. In 1966, Tura partnered with designer Christian Dior to create the next fashion in women’s eyewear – vintage designer glasses that came with matching brooches, earrings, and necklaces.

The short production timeline of the Turaneete makes this particular vintage frame style exceedingly rare. Although Tura reported that women wanted only new styles, the uniqueness of the Turanette puts them in high demand and a Turanette is a fantastic addition to any collection of vintage women’s eyewear if you can find one.

For those who appreciate the style and quality of vintage Tura glasses, Eyeglasses Warehouse has many different styles of cat eye and other vintage losses. Find your own pair of Tura cat eyeglasses in our inventory with the color and embellishments to perfectly match your style and outfit.

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Vintage Eyewear versus Retro Glasses: What’s the Difference?

If you have been searching for eyeglass frames with vintage style, some of the first terms you will come across are “vintage eyewear” and “retro eyewear.” Understanding these different terms can help you be sure you are getting the right style of eyeglass frames. 

In general, vintage eyewear and antique eyewear are authentic frames originally made when that frame style was popular. As a result, frames that are usually considered date from around the 1980s to any years prior. Many of these glasses, even those first made in the 1800s, are still used as wearable frames, although more delicate ones may be simply antiques for display. 

Retro glasses are modern glasses that manufacturers make to imitate vintage styles. They have all the look of historic eyewear, but use contemporary manufacturing methods and materials. 

The advantages to the two different kinds of vintage style glasses can help you determine which one is best for your needs. 

Differences Between Vintage Glasses and Retro Glasses

The differences in materials, production methods, and design can have certain advantages that may make one pair better than the other when it comes to eyeglasses you intend to wear daily, use in theater or on screen, add to a costume, or display. These are some of the main differences to know”

  • Glasses Material – Companies make retro glasses with the latest materials. This offers some benefits in terms of comfort and durability since many modern materials are lighter and often stronger as well, especially when you consider that a pair of early plastic glasses has existed for several decades already, causing the material to weaken. New materials will not necessarily have that authentic look and feel, however, which can make true vintage glasses the better choice as long as you can handle them gently. 
  • Fit – The average head size has increased over the past decades, so vintage glasses tend to be smaller. Antique glasses from the 1800s also use a smaller frame width that can be unfamiliar and uncomfortable for today’s glasses wearers. Retro glasses keep the look of older glasses, but are made to fit the modern face. They are also often produced in a range of sizes to make it easier to find a pair that fits you. However with any glasses, modern or vintage, you should always pay careful attention to the sizing and measure your own face for the best fit. 
  • Cost – Like many antique versus modern products, authentic glasses will tend to have a slightly higher price tag than retro glasses. The manufacturing process for these glasses was more painstaking and the current rarity adds to this cost. Many retro glasses, which can be more quickly manufactured on demand, will often be cheaper, although the overall price of either pair does depend on the quality. It is possible to find retro glasses today that go for much more than original antiques. Many vintage eyeglass frames are also affordable simply because there were so many produced at that time.
  • Condition – Retro glasses will be guaranteed new and unworn. This means they will also be free of scratches, cracks, or wearing on the frames. Vintage frames may be unused, in which case they are often referred to as “new old stock” or NOS. Opticians purchased these from glasses makers, but never sold them to customers. Other vintage glasses may be worn and have signs. Some people like these small defects as signs of the glasses’ history, while others want a pristine pair.

One similarity, in addition to styles often being the same, is that you can use both vintage and retro glasses with your prescription lenses or sunglasses. An optician can switch out the lenses on either pair, so long as the vintage glasses are not too fragile and have the necessary screws, to make both suitable for wearing.

When considering which type of glasses you would like to purchase, it can be useful to consider how you will be using the glasses. For a cherished accessory, authentic vintage glasses are often a nice touch since you get to wear a bit of history along with stylish rims. On screen and on stage, retro glasses may be a better option to withstand any rough treatment.

In reenacting or when wearing your glasses as part of a costume, antique glasses can maintain the authenticity of your outfit and help you get more into your persona, or retro glasses might be better if you engage in more active roleplay, such as live military reenactments.

At Eyeglasses Warehouse, we make it possible to find the right pair of both retro spectacles and vintage frames. We have a large selection of antique and vintage spectacles to help you find a pair in your size, price range, and desired look. We also offer our own line of retro glasses in many of the most popular vintage styles, all produced with high quality materials and construction techniques for a pair of frames that looks great and will last for years. Check our our inventory of vintage and retro glasses today.

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The Lorgnette and How It Became the First Fashionable Eyewear for Women 

Although antique glasses have been around since the 13th century, they were predominantly reserved for men in the earliest years. Few women could read at that time, and there was little need to have vision correction. Glasses were also extremely expensive in those early years, further limiting their use to the wealthy and those who especially needed them.

The rarity of glasses contributed to them being seen as extremely fashionable for women, and even as their use became more widespread in the 18th century, women tried to avoid them in public.

This changed with the lorgnette. First introduced in the late 1700s, the early lorgnette was simply two magnifying lenses secured in a frame, maybe with a handle. When the reader wanted a closer look at something, they would hold the lorgnette up to their eyes. Although used by both men and women throughout its history, lorgnettes quickly became a popular accessory for women, in part because of their scandalous connotations, before their combination of fashion and function revolutionized the world of women’s eyewear.

Controversial History of the Early Lorgnette

Because the lorgnette used only magnifying glass and could not provide any customized vision correction since there was no way to set the pupillary distance, it could never suffice as a pair of spectacles and was destined from the beginning to take on the role of a fashion accessory. 

The name in French approximates to “to look at furtively” or “to ogle,” and this was likely the start of the lorgnette’s more scandalous early history, as was the fact that the lorgnette quickly became an accessory associated with women. 

Women in the 1700s embraced the lorgnette as it gave them some improved vision when reading, a necessity now that many upper class women were now literate, without the need to wear unattractive spectacles. But the lorgnette  also quickly became a means on which to observe companions, competitors, and potential spouses at parties and the theater.

Early innovations with the lorgnette made this vintage eyewear particularly suited for spying purposes. The early jealousy lorgnette, for instance, had a mirror on the inside of the lens to enable the wearer to look behind her without turning their head. In reality, this was a social necessity. Turning to look at a newcomer in a room could be considered rude. But the mirror cemented the lorgnette’s reputation as a tool for spying surreptitiously.

Next came the fan lorgnette, potentially invented by Marie Antoinette, in which the lorgnette lens was embedded into a spoke of a fan. This enabled the lady to minimize the accessories she needed to carry, but also to spy more discreetly from behind her fan. Accusations abounded, likely not all untruthful, that women were using lorgnettes and fans to flirt endlessly, and that they had started putting lorgnettes into all manner of clothing, including the eyelets in lace. 

The controversy had the effect of pushing lorgnettes into even greater popularity and making them the height of fashion for wealthy and middle class young women.

Transition from Controversy into Fashion Accessory

Suspicions about lorgnettes and their use in spying and flirting eventually died down as they became commonplace and their wearers expanded to include women of all ages. 

By the early 1800s, fan lorgnettes had gone away, but there was now the option for lorgnettes with jointed handles. Some had lenses that would fold together and slide into the handle for easy storage.  At this point, women would wear them on a chain attached to a brooch or around their neck to keep the lorgnette readily available. 

Vintage frames and handles were crafted from several different materials and often artistically decorated with a combination of:

  • Horn
  • Tortoise Shell
  • Ivory
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Mother of Pearl Inlays 

Although significantly different from vintage spectacles meant for vision correction, the early lorgnettes offered the first opportunity for women to have attractive eyewear and cemented vintage eyewear’s possibility as a fashion statement.

Lorgnettes were eventually replaced by opera glasses by the end of the 1800s and relegated to use solely in the theater. Meanwhile, the pince nez, which had a very similar look but could be used for vision correction, became a popular eyewear style for women. Then later eyeglass frames in the early 1900s began to become fashionably acceptable for women to wear. 

But it was not until the 1940s when glasses manufacturers once again made eyewear into an accessory with vintage cat eye glasses, making them with all different materials, colors, and decoration that glasses would become as popular for women as the lorgnette.

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Dating a Pair of Vintage Eyeglass Frames

If you have found or recently purchased a pair of vintage eyeglass frames, determining when they were first made can be an interesting exercise. It provides useful information about their history and the value of your antique glasses as well. Dating glasses can also help you prove authenticity between a pair of retro glasses and authentic antique spectacles. 

Fortunately, many changes in glasses design makes it possible to pinpoint the manufacturing dates on glasses to at least within two decades, if not within an even more narrow time period. These are the different features on eyewear that you use to help pinpoint the age of a pair of frames.

What to Look for When Determining the Age of Your Antique Spectacles?

The first place to look for clues about age is on the temples and rims of glasses frames. From the late 1800s onwards, many manufacturers stamped information about the glasses into the metal, horn, or plastic to record the maker’s name, materials the glasses are made out of, and temple measurements. 

These marks are often small, so you will likely need a magnifying glass to clearly read them, but they can provide a source of valuable data information. For instance, if you find a maker’s mark, you can narrow down production time to when that optical company was in business. For gold frames, marks will list the gold content, whether 10K, 12K, or 14K. A significant part of the value of gold wire rimmed frames will come from the gold content rather than the age of the glasses themselves.

If marks are illegible, have been rubbed off, or did not contain the all the information you need these are some of the features you want next examine to help you date your glasses:

  • Style – Style can be the clearest indication of the earliest possible date for your glasses, although it is important to remember that styles have come back into fashion throughout the years and you may find reproduction glasses of many popular styles. But in general, sliding temple glasses or straight temple glasses will be from the 1800s. Pince nez often date to between the 1890s and 1920s. Rimless glasses were produced from 1900 onward. Horn rim glasses were in style from 1920 and later, cat eye glasses from the 1940s onward, and browline glasses from the 1950s onward. 
  • Plastic Rims – Manufacturers first began using plastic for glasses in the 1930s, but only sparingly. These early plastic glasses from the 30s and 40s were also very fragile so few remained today. Rims that were made of plastic will generally be from the 1950 or later years. 
  • Size of the Lenses – Lens size and placement has changed since the earliest glasses. In the 1800s, lenses were generally small and sat within the eye socket. After the 1900s, they became larger and moved to sit further away from the face. Checking how your glasses fit on your face can help you determine the age.
  • Temple Style – If the temple does not have a curvature in it, and is either a straight or sliding temple, it is almost certainly from the 1800s since these styles  had almost completely disappeared by the 1890s. Temples with an extreme curve that wraps around the ear, called either riding bow temples or cable temples, were widely available from the 1880s up until the 1940s, although they did go later on vintage military glasses. Skull temples that have a slight curve started to be more widely used in the 1930s and later. 
  • Lens Shape – The most popular lens shapes have changed from decade to decade. Prior to the 1900s, lenses were often rectangular or oval shaped. In the 1900s, ovoid, or egg shape, became popular as did the hexagon. Moving further into the 19th century, the cat eye shape was popular.
  • Nose Pads – Nose pads were not invented until the 1920s. If your metal rimmed glasses have nose pads, they were made in the 1920s or later.
  • Temple Placement – The idea to move temples to the top corner of the lenses rather than the middle did not occur until the mid 1920s with Ful Vue glasses. While some vintage glasses were still made with temples as the midpoint, this feature is a good way to distinguish pre and post 1920s glasses.

Another good way to determine the age of your glasses is to check out some of our many resources here at Eyeglasses Warehouse such as our guide to different nose bridge styles throughout the years and glasses from the World War I and World War II eras. 

For a more in depth overview of the different features you might see on a pair of vintage glasses from different time periods, you can also browse through our inventory of antique spectacles and vintage frames from the 1800s and 1900s to see styles that may look similar to your own pair.

Our wide collection of antique eyeglass frames is also the best place to buy vintage glasses online if you are searching for a pair of spectacles from a specific era.

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Finding Vintage Glasses for Your Steampunk Costume

An authentic pair of Victorian era glasses is the perfect way to complete your steampunk costume. Choosing an antique pair of eyeglass frames gives your costume a special touch and lets you take advantage of frame styles that are not available today. Vintage glasses are also often higher quality and longer lasting (most are already more than 100 years old, after all) than costume glasses. These are some of our favorite 1800s eyewear styles for steampunk costumes.

19th Century Frame Styles for Steampunk 

Those who wore spectacles in the 1800s had several different options for eyeglass styles, making it possible to find out the right pair of eyeglasses to fit your persona. Many glasses in the 1800s were made of gold or steel for a silver appearance and the wire rim look fits nicely with the steampunk look. 

Specific frame styles to consider include:

  • Civil War Era Glasses – These wire rimmed spectacles have the option for either straight temples or sliding temples. They have significantly smaller lenses than modern eyewear, which gives them a more vintage look. Straight shooter spectacles from this time period had tinted lenses surrounding a small untinted circle in the middle to help the wearer better aim when shooting, which would be interesting for a steampunk cosplay.
  • Hexagon Wire Rimmed Glasses – Although a little late for the Victorian era, the unique look of glasses with hexagon-shaped lenses make them an exciting choice and the wire rims work for a steampunk costume.
  • Windsor Frames – Windsor glasses have wire rims and circular lenses and riding bow temples. Vintage round glasses in gold or silver are a functional accessory.
  • Pince Nez – The spectacles clip onto the end of the nose and do not have temples. They are small frames that have a vintage look and are a fun conversation-starting accessory that go well with any intellectual steampunk persona.
  • Vintage Goggles – Antique goggles from companies like Willson are the essential steampunk item. These goggles use protective metal rims and cable temples to help keep them secure. Although more rare than other vintage eyewear styles, these goggles remain one of the top choices for an authentic steampunk costume. 

At Eyeglasses Warehouse, we sell a wide range of antique eyeglasses from the 19th century and early 20th century. These make a unique accessory or switch them out with your prescription lenses for wearable antique glasses. Browse our selection of antique glasses today and check back often for more unique steampunk eyewear.