Wearable Eyeglasses Through Time

Did you ever wonder how the first Eyeglasses looked like?

Have you ever imagined how life was before inventing wearable eyeglasses?

Although some people hate eyeglasses because they think they look ugly or nerdy with them, but undoubtedly, wearable eyeglasses are one of the most important inventions that affected the world. This invention opened the door for vision problem treatments which made people’s lives easier for generations; without it we wouldn’t invent other treatments such as lenses and Lasik surgery. Moreover, wearable eyeglasses not only caused a huge progress in the medical field but also evoked the idea of inventing sunglasses. So let me take you where it all started and show you how they developed.


Before inventing Eye glasses people used to use either “Glass globe”, a glass filled with water, or “Reading stone”, a hemisphere of glass, to magnify and to clarify the words. However, it all changed when Salvino D’Armate, an Italian man born in 1258, died in 1312, invented the first wearable eyeglasses in 1284. They were designed without side pieces, so simply they were held in front of the eyes or balanced on the nose. Besides, they were worn by monks and scholars only. In addition, this style remained until the invention of the printing press in 1452 which resulted in producing a huge number of new designs in expensive eyeglasses.


During this century eyeglasses witnessed a higher level of progression. They were made by hand. Moreover, they were modified to include side pieces that rest over the ear. This period involved four popular styles (Martin’s Margins, wig spectacles, Bifocal, and Scissor spectacles) which all reflect the frequent progress of eyeglasses.

Martin’s Margins

This style was developed by Benjamin Martin, scientist and instrument maker. It is characterized by golden plated frames with circular horn inserted around lenses.

Wig spectacles

This style was called so because of its popularity among men who wore wigs. Its design is characterized by long temple pieces that extend beyond the ears.


This type of Eyeglasses was invented by Benjamin Franklin, a statesman, diplomat, writer, scientist and inventor. It was considered one of the most important inventions because it included a lens that can accommodate both long and short vision. Furthermore, it is characterized by brass rectangular bifocal spectacles with sliding temples.

Scissor spectacles

These Eyeglasses were designed for men who don’t like to wear their eyeglass such as U.S. President George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. These eyeglasses consisted of tortoiseshell frames with lenses.


By the end of this century, Eyeglasses production increased and began to take a larger scale. Moreover, people were able to buy Eyeglasses for suitable prices from many shops and merchants. Additionally, at this period people believed that eyeglasses are a sign of old age, so they decided to wear it in necessary cases only. This belief resulted in introducing a new design called Lorgnettes which helped them to avoid wearing eyeglasses.


It is the developed version of scissor spectacles. Its design consists of a pair of eyeglasses and a single long handle. Besides, in 1830, a French manufacturer added a hinged bridge with a spring, so the eyeglasses can be folded.


During this period Eyeglasses manufacture witnessed a huge expansion that they became an industry of their own. Besides that, the styles quickly changed because of Hollywood and the celebrities’ influence on the fashion and the availability of new materials. In accordance to the change that happened to the styles, there were three prominent styles which are pince-nez, Round Lenses and The Upswept.


This style became well known during the period from 1900 till 1920. It was a French style as it was firstly developed in France. It was featured with a small frame and had no temples, held comfortably on the bridge of the nose. Moreover, it was popular among political figures such as U.S. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge.

Round Lenses

In 1920, pince-nez began to be old fashioned and replaced by the round lenses which were introduced by a Hollywood actor called Harold Lloyd.  It was featured with a large round lens with a tortoiseshell frame inside.

The Upswept

By the 1940s the use of plastic materials gave a chance for a wide variety in the frames’ colors. This type of eyeglasses took the same shape of the women’s sweep eyelashes which is why it was popular among women.  In addition, this style remained popular till the 1950s. This change of styles continued till our current century to be suitable for each time and to make the users’ lives easier.

Actually, these wonderful eyeglasses are the magical gate that took us to a better future, gave a wide chance for creativity and changed the whole world completely.


“A Timeline of Eyeglasses History.” Laurier Optical | Innes Eye Clinic. N.p., 27 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.


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“Martin’s Margins.” American Optometric Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2017. <http://www.aoa.org/about-the-aoa/archives-and-museum/museum-collections/martins-margins?sso=y>.

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