6 Other Types of Eyeglasses

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1. Pince-nez

When you see a pair of pince-nez, which, in French, literally means "to pinch the nose," you probably think of President Teddy Roosevelt. He was famous for wearing a C-bridge type of pince-nez. However, pince-nez first appeared in Europe in the 15th century. But they didn't become fashionable in the U.S. until the end of the 19th century and were already waning in popularity by the time Teddy Roosevelt became president. Pince-nez were worn by both men and women, but the ones made for women were usually rimless and suspended on fine gold chains. Pince-nez came in three main styles: hard bridge, C-bridge, and spring bridge, which were considered "sporty." The hard bridge, which had to be fitted to the width of your nose, were actually used through the 1950s.

2. Monocle

Although the monocle was used as far back as 1720 by antiques connoisseur Philipp Von Stosch to examine treasures, the simplest form of monocles were not found in England until the 1830s. These consisted of a corrective lens in a wire frame, but were improved in the 1890s by adding a raised "gallery" which held the lens slightly off the eye to keep eyelashes from knocking against it. The final improvement came in the early 20th century when frameless monocles were custom fit to the shape of an individual eye. Although monocles are most often associated with the upper crust, gentlemen in the 19th century and upper-class German officers during World War I, Vision Express Eyewear in England debuted a new line of monocles at the end of 2009 in its London shops. The retailer says that it had many requests for monocles—yes, fashion is a circular as, well, as a monocle.

3. Quizzing glasses

Quizzing glasses, or quizzers as they're sometimes called, are similar to monocles, however, you hold them up to your eye by a handle, much like opera glasses (see No. 6). The lenses came in three variety of shapes: round, oval, or oblong. Quizzers, like other early eyeglasses, were often elaborate and intricate. The outer rims were often faceted, pinkbeck, decorated with turqoise, or even encrusted with diamonds. The loop, which attached to a chain so that you wouldn't lose the glasses, were works of art as well. Some interesting examples of loop designs include a dolphin swallowing its own head, a Roman harp, and back-to-back Chinese dragons.

4. Scissor-glasses

Scissor-glasses, or binocles-ciseaux in French, originated around the second half of the 18th century. They were primarily used to correct distance vision and were invented to replaced the single lens quizzing glasses, which were believed to tire the eye. Scissor-glasses were often very ornate, yet delicate, made of gold or vermeil with precious stones. Consisting of two arms on a fixed base, the glasses usually had a loop on the bottom so that they could be worn around the neck on a ribbon or gold chain. In post-revolutionary France these were an important and tres chic accessory. George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and Napoleon were all known to have used binocles-ciseaux.

5. Lorgnette

The lorgnette is believed to have developed from the scissor glasses by an Englishman named George Adams. With two lenses on a lateral handle, it quickly became popular with fashionable ladies in the 18th century and continued to be popular through the end of the 19th century. The word lorgnette derives from the Middle French word lorgne. which means "to squint." These glasses were, like scissor glasses, considered more jewelry than corrective eye-wear. The lorgnette was also a popular accessory for masquerade balls. This design led to modern opera glasses.

6. Opera glasses

An adaptation of the lorgnette, opera glasses also used a handle to hold the glasses in front of the eyes. Also known as "theatre binoculars" or Galilean binoculars, opera glasses differ from binoculars as they are more compact, and are able to focus easily indoors and at short distances. Opera glasses became popular in the 1820s when theater owners wanted to give patrons in cheaper seats the same advantage of front row seats. Although, they were more often used to scope out other operagoers than watch the performance. You may recall that President Lincoln had a pair of these on him at the Ford theater that fated night. They are estimated to be worth around $4.25 million! Like the opera itself, the opera glasses are most often elegant, intricate, and elaborate.

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March 29, 2010 - 5:07am
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