There are many intriguing twists and turns of fate in our world, and one of these is to be found in the early history of Oliver Goldsmith, one of the foremost firms of the world today. Oliver Goldsmith himself – originally named Philip Goldsmith, but later using his middle name for greater advertising cachet – viewed his first breakthrough model, the “Dawn”, as being extremely hard to see when being worn because of its flesh toned frame.
This is an odd beginning to a company that was soon to develop some of the most garish, imaginative, and outlandish vintage eyeglasses to be found on the planet, and become famous because of that. Even in the era of cat eye glasses, Oliver Goldsmith creations stand out thanks to their bright colors, intricate designs, and unexpected use of shapes, colors, and themes.
The “Dawn” could be viewed as the last hurrah of the old, rather primitive idea that vintage eyeglasses are unattractive or mark the user as weak and contemptible. Just as the minimalist types of pince nez were meant to conceal the fact their user was wearing them as much as possible, so the flesh tone of the Dawn was supposed to camouflage it on the user’s face, assuming that they had a pink Caucasian complexion.
It was actually Oliver Goldsmith’s son Charles who finally broke the stifling mold of “eyeglasses shame” and helped to lead the charge into brilliant creations that grace a beautiful countenance or evoke the optimistic, lighthearted flamboyance of a bygone age. When he assumed direction of the company after the Second World War, Charles changed his name to Oliver and embarked on the transformation of vintage glasses from burden to fashion statement.
Though Oliver Goldsmith’s cat eye glasses were not the only splendidly aesthetic, colorful, or sculptural designs appearing on the market then, the personal and company leadership of both the man and the brand had a powerful effect on the evolving view of vintage glasses.
Peoples’ desire for stylish eyeglasses was likely percolating right under the surface. Oliver Goldsmith’s bold stand unleashed an era that produced some of history’s most amazing and fun cat eye glasses designs.
The continuing Goldsmith method
The Oliver Goldsmith line has a highly personal approach, which is part of the secret to its success. Each new Goldsmith to take control of the company adopts the name Oliver. Currently, the third Oliver Goldsmith is running the company; the grandson of Philip Oliver Goldsmith, who founded it long ago between the two World Wars.
The Oliver Goldsmith company pioneered not only fashionable “art glasses”, but was one of the first firms to advertise vintage eyewear as fashion accessories in womens’ magazines. This signaled how far it had come in transforming spectacles from burdens to personal jewelry.
As might be expected from such a prominent firm, many of the clients it has had across the years are high profile actors and actresses, as well as royalty both English and European. Audrey Hepburn, Michael Caine, and John Lennon all sported these glasses at some time.
However, even if Oliver Goldsmith cat eye glasses are outside the reach of the average collector in many cases, they are still a very interesting part of the history of antique eyeglasses. They helped immensely to make colorful frames acceptable and desirable, and thus played a role in ushering in the huge variety of fascinating vintage eyeglasses that people can collect and wear.