Antique eyeglasses, whether of relatively recent manufacture, made within living memory, or produced back in the misty, half-seen times of our Republic’s early days, appeal in a number of different ways to the collector and to those who are simply looking for something distinctive and unusual to wear in place of modern eyeglasses. They are pieces of history, connecting us to moments and eras that are now long gone except in the pages of history books and a few fading pictures.

What is more, however, is the fact that antique eyeglasses are a particularly intimate link to the past – to our own ancestors, to the historical personages who dot our chronicles, and so on. Unlike an antique table, chair, or lamp, the visionwear of yore was used for an essential physical need, and was the constant companion of its owner, worn on their face and serving to help them see. They beheld everything from the faces of the people they loved to the work that they accomplished, from a long-vanished sunset to a stirring event which was then as intensely real as the events we witness today.


When we look through their time-dented frames, we are gazing on the world almost literally with the eyes of the past. These instruments allowed people to see – to use their visual organs to carry images of a vanished culture into their brains more clearly. This special individuality and the human connection that attaches to every pair of antique eyeglasses cannot be equaled by any chandelier, rug, or blown glass vase, however artistically superior it may be to pair of plain spectacles.

Finally, there is the diversity of both form and function that humankind adopted in trying to correct their vision while remaining stylish at the same time. Everything from severe, puritanical spectacles from Revolutionary days, to the slightly exaggerated stylishness of cat eye glasses from the recent past, from the miniature mechanisms of late pince nez to the psychedelic “tea glasses” of the hippy era await your discovery and enjoyment.

Ways of interacting with antique eyeglasses

Antique eyeglasses and spectacles are probably easier to find today than at any time in the past thanks to the Internet, auction sites such as eBay, and the specialized stores that now find it simpler to stock these fascinating collectibles, too. Once you have decided that you want to investigate the world of this vintage eyewear further, you have several choices open to you.

You can opt to take a mostly practical approach, and use the old glasses you buy as functional eyeglasses. You can either do this by finding pairs that already match your vision requirements (not a problem in the case of sunglasses, of course) or by having the old lenses removed and new ones put in. Note that having the old lenses removed destroys most of the item’s antique value, so you should only do it with relatively recent, cheap, abundant types.

The other choice is to become a collector of antique eyeglasses, either in large numbers or just as a few well-chosen curiosities that happen to pique your interest. In this case, you will need more knowledge to find interesting pairs, spot fakes, and get the maximum enjoyment out of your collection. The Vintage Optical Shop will guide you through this fascinating corner of history and all its many details – read on to begin your own voyage of discovery through the sphere of historic glasses!

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