As with many of the top end cat eye glasses and other sophisticated retro eyewear of the mid 20th century (and the present day), Oliver Goldsmith glasses were and are handmade. It is an interesting commentary on the unchanging nature of human skill that the finest eyewear, even in our era of computer guided manufacturing, high tech materials, and so forth, is still made by highly practiced artisans and not by machines.
Though production in this manner limits Oliver Goldsmith eyeglasses to a few hundred extremely expensive examples every year, it also allowed the company to showcase many different materials during its history. The earliest material was tortoiseshell, extracted from unfortunate sea turtles as was the custom of the time. Fortunately, this period soon ended.
The first Oliver Goldsmith broke away from tortoiseshell early, though the plastic he used for the Dawn, Erinoid, was designed specifically to mimic the natural shell as closely as possible (other than in color, naturally). Erinoid continued to be used alongside other types of celluloid until the second Oliver Goldsmith took over the firm in 1947.
The handmade procedure allowed the use of materials that could never be used for mass machine production. For example, some vintage glasses frames during the 1950s were crafted out of bamboo – keeping the form and texture of the natural material clearly visible, though expertly shaped into frames and slotted to allow insertion of lenses into the eyerims.
Plastics of all kinds appear in Oliver Goldsmith creations, including 1950s and 1960s cat eye glasses. Jewels and crystals were inserted into some frames, while others featured metal appliques such as brows, decorative hinges, and the like, using steel, aluminum, and other lustrous metals. Large aluminum brows appeared on some models, such as a unique handmade example created for Monaco's Princess Grace to wear while skiing.
Sizes also varied greatly, from standard sized vintage eyeglasses to enormous lenses that had to be custom ground from optical glass. Many of these started out as unique pieces for individual buyers and then became standbys of Oliver Goldsmith's line, perhaps illustrating that customer feedback and inspiration are an important part of the creative process in the vintage eyewear field.
1950s cat eye glasses never out of production
One intriguing detail about Oliver Goldsmith's glasses, including vintage cat eye glasses, is a result of this handmade manufacturing process. Since any pair of glasses can still be manufactured, no Oliver Goldsmith product ever goes out of production. The eventual end of the company – perhaps when climate change crushes the ability of the plastics industry to keep operating – will put all the retro glasses out of production, but until that day, even the “Dawn” is probably available.
Therefore, all the 1950s and 1960s designs are still available to those willing to pay for them. The famous Butterfly glasses, various colorful cat eye glasses such as the “Cards” model, and even the bizarre but attractive Vidal Sassoon pyramid, will be handmade to order by the firm.
Where other eyeglass companies let their vintage eyewear designs sink into the warm haze of history, Oliver Goldsmith keeps the past vigorously alive – a luxury that only a top end handmade cat eye glasses company can afford. The 1950s and 1960s are not quite past yet, with companies such as this to keep their brilliant styles alive.