Among the antique eyeglasses which lack temples and keep their place with their grip on the nose, hoop spring pince nez reading glasses are another comfortable, practical variety which often make the most of pince nez minimalism for both appearance and ergonomics’ sake.
The defining feature of these pince nez reading glasses (or other types of glasses) is that their seating on the nose depends on the tension of the bridge itself. This is key to their convenience and the pleasantness of their use. Indeed, everything about hoop spring vintage eyeglasses is defined by the bridge configuration itself, as well as the nose pads or plaquettes that the glasses feature.
Ironically, hoop spring pince nez “evolved” into the Oxford, which is even better looking to some but is heavier and considerably less comfortable to wear. Much of the reputation for discomfort that attaches to pince nez comes from tarring the whole family of eyeglasses with the Oxford’s foibles, while the hoop spring is light and unobtrusive eyewear.
The hoop spring bridge itself
The bridge of hoop spring pince nez reading glasses is always made of metal, typically steel, which has the proper tension and springiness needed to make the arrangement work. The lenses and eyerims are the standard types found on all 19th and early 20th century pince nez, either round or oval, with a loop or other fastening to accommodate a safety cord or ribbon on the lower curve of one lens or eyerim.
The curved metal of the hoop spring bridge provides all the tension needed to keep the glasses on your nose. It is fashioned to return to a rest state at a point where the two lenses are nearly touching, or even overlap slightly. Thus, when a nose is inserted between them, the inward pressure of flexible steel bridge, attempting to return to true, presses the eyerims or lenses against the nose hard enough to keep the eyewear in place.
From widened eyerims to plaquettes
The very first pince nez reading glasses to appear in America, the hard rubber variety invented by John Jacob Bausch, were a type of early hoop spring. Thickenings of the inner edges of the eyerims provided some cushioning effect.
Later, crude cork nose pads were added to the eyerims, and later still, plaquettes were mounted on the bridge. The plaquettes, which are small plates hinged to adjust to the angles of the sides of your nose, are both more secure and more comfortable than the previous arrangements (widened eyerims or cork pads).
A hoop spring bridge can be fitted to either rimmed or rimless pince nez reading glasses. Of course, for rimless attachment, thin, non-tempered glass is needed, since only this can be successfully drilled. Modern day safety glass is problematic because it cannot be drilled, and is thick and heavy as well, so special lenses are need for rimless pince nez reading glasses if they do not retain their original glass. There is no problem with rimmed varieties, of course.
Hoop spring pince nez reading glasses (sometimes called “C bridge pince nez”, since the “hooped” bridge resembles the letter C), are fun vintage eyewear to collect. They are pleasant to wear, lightweight, spare of design, and look great either on the face or in your display cabinet.