Eyeglasses: we can agree they offer both form and function. But have you ever wondered about how this useful invention came to be? Well, we have a fun history lesson for you.
Historians believe it all started around the year 1200 in what we now know as Europe. Call it mere experimentation or science—Ancient Romans are credited with discovering how to use glass spheres filled with water to magnify items. (Think reading a book through a fish bowl.)
It wasn’t until later, in Venice, that Luigi Zecchin came to learn that by putting the eyes near a shaped rock crystal, all objects became clearly visible. This breakthrough caught on and in 1284, “round glass for the eyes” (translated from Italian) became routinely produced. By 1300, the art of making eyeglasses had become a common practice in Europe. The invention of the printing press and the proliferation of books only increased the demand for spectacles in the latter part of the 1400s, because reading became a more widely adopted activity.
While the function was the same as today, the materials used to manufacture the frames have evolved over the years. In the 16thcentury, artisans relied on naturally sourced materials like whalebone, horn, tortoiseshell and leather. Unlike the fit today, the structure of the frame was arched and the spring bridge pinched the nose. It was neither comfortable nor flattering. As technology evolved across Europe in the 1600s and more materials became widely available, metal frames and a modified and improved fit came on the scene. The production process was simple and the price to the consumer was low, which made conditions rife for mass production and a wider reach.
The 18th century is when eyewear became more than just a functional piece, but a fashion statement. For example, the lorgnette and monocle were in vogue. Made out of gold, silver and other precious materials, some people of means adorned them with precious stones. (The first form of bedazzling?) Bifocals were also introduced as an additional option, especially for tradespeople who needed to focus clearly on close objects.
That demand for both practicality and function continued into later centuries. Today’s consumer has no shortage of options, when it comes to shape, material, color, size and other factors. In other words, you can find something that fits your lifestyle and personality.
So, next time you put on your favorite pair, just think about how they are the result of centuries of innovative technology. For more information on finding the right glasses for you, request an appointment today at one of our locations.