10 Fun Facts About Glasses From the Most Expensive to the Oldest
From the oldest glasses in the world to the most expensive; why John Lennon wore his round-rimmed classics to the birth of Ray-Ban aviators, here are 10 fascinating pieces of trivia from the glasses world.
The classic Ray-Ban Aviator
One of the most recognizable styles of sunglasses in the world, the classic Ray-Ban Aviators were originally worn by US fighter pilots. The metal-framed shades were originally designed in 1936, by US eyewear Company Bausch & Lomb, to provide protection from the intense sunlight at high altitude, with a distinctive teardrop-shaped lens to maintain a wide field of vision. Worn during World War II, they became fashionable after Tom Cruise wore them in the movie Top Gun.
John Lennon & Mahatma Ghandi
John Lennon’s signature round glasses were inspired by the rimless spectacles worn by Mahatma Ghandi. The Beatle is said to have been so moved by Ghandi’s philosophy of peace and non-violence, that he adopted them as a symbol of his commitment to peace activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, ‘John Lennon glasses’ are ever-popular and are still widely seen as a symbol of counterculture.
Albert Einstein is another well-known wearer of round frames, and although his glasses also became a big part of his image, whether or not he actually needed them, is up for debate.
Up to 200 separate steps are needed to make a pair of metal-framed glasses. Starting with design and meticulous technical measurement, metal, lenses and other materials used in the frames and arms are then cut using tools or lasers, before being assembled by hand. Finally, the frames are polished and finished, ready for prescription lenses.
400 000 euros
While vintage glasses can attract high prices, the most expensive commercially available modern sunglasses were made by De Rigo Vision for Chopard in 2012 and retailed at over €400,000. The Swiss fine watch and jewelry house used an incredible 60g of 24-karat gold and 51 diamonds on the luxury frames, which were showcased in Dubai.
Tiffany & Pharrell Williams
Even more expensive, are the Tiffany & Co diamond and emerald sunglasses custom designed for Pharrell Williams in 2022. Tiffany ran into controversy when similarities were raised by jewelry editors, between the bejeweled shades and a pair of 17th century Indian Mughal glasses sold by Sotheby’s in 2021. Both Tiffany and Pharrell refused to comment on the scandal.
Some of the oldest pairs of glasses in the world date back to the 15th century. One pair, held in Daisenin Temple in Kyoto, Japan, belonged to the eighth shogun or Muromachi and were made out of carved white ivory. Another pair, held in The Markiezenhop museum in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, is from the 14th century.
Although widely considered to have been invented by Italian monks in the 13th century, glasses are now thought to date back to the Ancient world, when the Romans looked through glass objects to improve their vision.
The word ‘spectacles’ is derived from the Latin for ‘to look at’. Glasses began to be known as ‘spectacles’ around the 18th century, a word derived from spectare, a Latin word that translates to “to look at” or “to observe.” In the US, they are known as eyeglasses, and more widely in the English-speaking world, as glasses.
The first known examples of industrialized glasses production was in the Morez region of France, in 1796. By 1900, the area was producing 12 million pieces a year, and is still considered the birthplace of modern eyewear. Today, France has a thriving scene for independent glasses brands like Roussilhe and Lafont, and glasses made or designed in France need to be stamped as such.
Written by Kate Matthams