Though some American made vintage cat eye eyeglasses from the Fifties and Sixties had a reputation for very poor quality – such as those produced by Polaroid – Tura made a series of glasses that were the match of any foreign fashions from Austria, Germany, France, or England. Tura produced some of the sturdiest and highest quality metal cat eye eyeglasses of the era, many of which survive today with little more than slight signs of wear.
The company was born from an earlier Madison Avenue company named House of Levoy, which was founded prior to the Second World War by one Monroe Benjamin Levoy. One of the items sold by the House of Levoy was the “Futura Mirror”, and this was popular enough that an ellipsis of the word Futura – “Tura” – was used for the name of the newly launched brand in 1949.
Artistry and innovation evidently runs in the Levoy blood, as one of Monroe’s descendents was to be the technician who developed pioneering computer animation techniques used for Hanna-Barbara cartoons such as the Flintstones and Scooby Doo. Back in the 1950s, however, Tura cat eye glasses made a name for themselves by harnessing die casting techniques to produce extremely rugged yet also very elegant vintage eyeglasses for the eager postwar market.
Aluminum had been used as a material in certain industries since the late 19th century, but it was the aircraft industry during the Second World War that led to massive advances in aluminum manufacturing science that made it cost effect for such uses as cat eye eyeglasses frames. Tura Inc. seized this opportunity with both hands and produced some of the most distinctive, hardy cat eye glasses that the Fifties and Sixties have to offer.
Advantages and drawbacks of Tura aluminum cat eye eyeglasses
Tura was the first company to make all-aluminum frames for cat eye glasses, rather than just a few metal details, such as brows or decorative bands for temples. It could be argued that this boldness was a result of chance, but it could also be a sign of the innovative spirit that the American eyeglass industry often showed in the past, from Benjamin Franklin’s invention of the bifocal lens onwards.
Most Tura frames had a standard, elegant but not exaggerated, cat’s eye tilt to them, probably because of the casting process making it easier to create similar frames and then distinguish individual models through color and decorative details.
Tura’s aluminum frames had several advantages, including light weight, beauty, and durability. Aluminum is basically corrosion proof, since it forms a microscopic but impervious layer of aluminum oxide on its surface within a few hours of exposure to air. This oxide layer is resistant to most environmental factors, and aluminum will never pit, rust, or corrode unless exposed to a handful of rare and powerful chemicals. Aluminum is also very resistant to breakage from normal use – more so than plastics – and retains its smooth sheen unblemished for decades.
The aluminum frames did present some problems, however – foremost among these being that the cat eye eyeglasses made from this metal can’t be easily adjusted. Despite this, Tura glasses were – and are – very popular among aficionados of the “feline” style of feminine glasses.
The aluminum design of Levoy’s Tura line opened up other possibilities for decoration that other fashion houses of the time were hard pressed to match, however, and introduced techniques that would expand the aesthetic range of glasses designs in the following decades.