Though style and comfort sometimes collide head-on – and given the peculiarities of the human psyche, it is unclear which of the two will emerge victorious in a specific “struggle” – Windsor Vintage eyeglass frames often show a blending of both stylistic and comfort considerations from their earliest days. Constructed out of narrow wires, almost always made from metal, these early Windsor eyeglass frames required coating to reach both their aesthetic and ergonomic peak.
Aesthetically, plain Windsor Vintage eyeglass frames are very plain indeed. A thin edging of bare steel, and small diameter wire riding bow temples, are spare to the point of starkness. Although some people enjoy this level of Zen-like simplicity in their vintage eyewear (and there is certainly nothing wrong with that), many others prefer a warmer, more organic, slightly more colorful look that can be provided with a coating.
Ergonomically speaking, coatings are important for wearer comfort also. The thin, bare wires of vintage eyeglasses tend to dig uncomfortably into the flesh, especially on the sides of the nose and behind the ears. Coatings render the frames somewhat bulkier, so the pressure is distributed over a larger area, and also make the edges touching the skin a bit softer and springier. Coated wires also get warm from body heat, while metal frames tend to stay cool or cold.
Materials used to coat Windsor vintage glasses frames
When Windsor eyeglass frames first appeared on the American market in the 1840s, plastic and celluloid still lay in the future. However, vulcanized rubber existed, and thanks to J. J. Bausch's introduction of it to the vintage spectacles world in that decade, it was available for optical uses. The first coated antique eyeglasses were covered in a layer of hard rubber, a substance whose springiness helped to make the frames more comfortable to wear as well as protecting the metal from damage, scrapes, and corrosion.
Celluloid entered the Windsor eyeglass frames scene much later, and if a coating is not obviously rubber, then it is likely that the Windsors in question are from sometime in the early 20th century rather than the mid or late 19th century, when these coatings existed only in an experimental form that was not yet used on antique eyeglasses (or for any practical application).
Zylonite was first created in 1865, the last year of the American Civil War, which proved to be a remarkable catalyst for development of the American vintage eyeglasses industry in other ways, too. Once again, its use was pioneered by a German-American, one Paul Schützenberger, though he was technically of French extraction because of his birth in Alsace, a part of France despite its Germanic language and customs. However, it was not made cheap to make and convenient to apply until the first few years of the 20th century.
Zylonite was often called “tortoiseshell” for advertising purposes, even though it was actually a celluloid compound (and is still in use today). The colors most frequently encountered are tortoiseshell (a marbled hue designed to match the natural substance), blond, brown, and black. Other marbled hues, such as “demi-blond”, were also made to satisfy wearer's interest in dignified but colorful vintage eyeglasses.