The technology of the past is often fascinating for the ingenuity which was put into solving a problem with sharply limited materials and mechanical parts compared to modern equivalents, and some of the most sophisticated antique eyewear are astig pince nez. An alternate name for astig glasses is “spring bridge”, which is a highly accurate description of how astigs work, but which is not nearly as memorable a name for this type of antique eyewear.
(Astig is, of course, a shortened form of “astigmatism”.)
Once again, the bridge of astigs is the key portion of this antique eyewear which sets it apart from all other kinds of pince nez. Astigs have a very distinctive appearance, as easily distinguished as that of Oxford glasses, hoop bridge pince nez, or, for that matter, lorgnettes. They are not suited to all appearances, and are considered to lie at the casual end of pince nez style by many modern observers. Whether this matches your personal sense of fashion is, of course, a matter of your own taste.
Function of astig pince nez bridge pieces
Due to the mechanical principles involved in their functioning, astigs are antique eyewear which almost never comes in a rimless variety. A few rare specimens of experimental rimless astigs exist, but the overwhelming majority are rimmed due to the demands of the bridge mounting.
Antique eyeglasses of the astig configuration features a horizontal bridge which is actually made of two sliding, interlocked sections. These two sections are bound together with a tubular spring, which both keeps them together and pulls them towards each other by contraction of the metal coil. Pulling on each eyepiece causes the two eyerims to slide apart, widening the gap between the plaquettes mounted to a pivot on the inner curve of each eyerim.
Once your hold on the eyerims is relaxed, the spring telescopes the two halves of the vintage eyewear together again, thus clamping the nose between the plaquettes. The movement opening and closing the astigs must be gentle, since the mechanism, despite its relatively rugged construction (since items were made to last around the turn of the 20th century), still includes many small parts which were constructed a century ago.
Uses of astig pince nez
Astig pince nez were originally thought to cling more strongly to the nose than other types, and to therefore be suitable for sportsmen and other active individuals. It is still advisable to tie a ribbon or cord into the loop fitted for that purpose, however, and secure the safety ribbon to your lapel or tie its other end around your neck to keep your astig safe in case they drop off your nose.
People of a more casual character often prefer astigs among antique eyewear.
Bar spring astigs
An alternate form of astig vintage eyeglasses were bar spring pince nez. These were a hybrid between regular astigs and hoop spring pince nez, often fitted to rimless lenses for those who disliked the look of a rim and wanted to make their antique eyeglasses as inconspicuous as possible. The tubular spring and the two sliding ends of the bar were placed above the lenses, with a pair of vertical arms extending downwards to make a flattened C-shape.
The plaquettes were attached to the arms of bar/hoop combination, not the eyerims, producing a very idiosyncratic hybrid form. Unfortunately from a practical viewpoint, the spring section was too small to provide the necessary power and the grip of this antique eyewear on the nose is weak. However, they make superb, unique additions to a collection of vintage eyeglasses, fit to stand beside the best Oxford glasses, or the astig pince nez they were developed from.