Fitting Lenses to Rimless Vintage Eyeware

Adding modern lenses to rimmed pince nez, Oxfords, and other types of vintage eyeware is quite straightforward, since there are eyerims to hold the glass in place. Thus, there is no problem with the safety glass that is the only type that a modern optician will supply to their customers. Refitting such types of vintage eyewear is no more difficult than finding an optician who will make lenses of the strength you need, in the appropriate diameter and shape, and then inserting them in the eyerims.

By contrast, rimless vintage eyeware is a major challenge to fit with modern lenses, thanks to the fact that opticians, obeying the laws of the United States, will only create lenses out of safety glass. This has quite different properties than the glass or rock crystal used in vintage eyeglasses, long before these prudent but limiting laws were enacted.

rimless vintage eyeware    Rimless pince nez and the like attach the bridge and other fittings (such as the ribbon loop) to the lenses with a screw, which must pass through a precisely drilled hole in the lens itself. Attempting to drill safety glass, however, will lead to an unusable lens – it will disintegrate either right at the point of drilling, or entirely, under the stresses of drilling.

Several options exist for adding modern lenses to rimless vintage eyeware so that it can be worn both for the sake of style and vision correction – or, in the form of mirrored sunglasses, as “Matrix glasses”. The most commonly used of these include:


Use plastic lenses. This is the simplest solution, and though it lacks authenticity, it is still effective. These lenses can usually be safely drilled, as long as care and precision are exercised. This is a particularly frequent technique for sunglasses, since the optical properties of the lenses are not as urgent in this case.

Find another piece of rimless vintage eyeware that has lenses of the appropriate strength and move them to the bridge that you prefer. Since most of the rimless pince nez placed the holes at exactly the same spots, regardless of how diverse their forms are otherwise, it is usually possible to move a set of lenses from one pair of antique eyeglasses to another.

Since these lenses are made out of non-safety glass, and come with the holes pre-drilled in them, they are very convenient for fitting to other rimless pince nez.

Many different strengths of lenses are still available in this way. There should be an example of the appropriate optical qualities and desired shape unless your needs are particularly unusual.

It is generally considered better to use modern screws than the originals, and then break off any projecting “excess” with a pair of wire cutters. The vintage screws should be retained as part of the original “ensemble”, however.

Locate separate lenses which have been appropriately drilled, through an online or brick-and-mortar seller of vintage eyeware or by searching auction sites such as eBay. This is a lengthy and painstaking process, so getting polycarbonate or plastic lenses installed as a stopgap that allows the wearing of the vintage eyeware is often a prudent step.

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