Tura Cateye Glasses and the Use of Aluminum Frames

Beginning as the offshoot of a Madison Avenue fancy eyewear dispensary, Tura Inc. became one of the major American producers of high quality cateye glasses during the mid-20th century. The bold decision to make cast metal frames – particularly aluminum – on the part of the firm’s founder, Monroe Levoy, gave the eyewear a distinctive flair that helped set the glasses apart from competing brands and create brand loyalty among Tura aficionados.

The aluminum construction of many Tura cateye glasses made them very durable and tough, as well as providing a unique all-metallic look that did not have the harshness of steel. Those who have held a pair of Tura glasses today known that the glasses have a very solid feel despite their sophisticated lines, and are likely to far outlast plastic creations of the era.

cateye glasses    One of the ways in which the choice of aluminum as the construction material for the major lines of Tura glasses affected the embellishment of the glasses, too, opening up some new possibilities which could be duplicated in plastic now, but were beyond the plastics technology of the time.

Anodized colors on Tura cat eye eyeglasses

            Levoy’s choice to make many of his Tura eyeglasses out of aluminum opened up an unusual decorative option that enhanced the brand’s fashion appeal – the ability to color the glasses using anodized colors. Everything from faux tortoiseshell and wood to an array of shimmering, glistening metallic colors seldom seen on other cat eye eyeglasses at that time also made the products stand out.

Anodized metallic colors were complemented by metal appliques, sometimes made out of silver. These always appeared at the outer corners of the eyerims and flowed over onto the sturdily-hinged temples. A motif of curling vines and leaves seemed to be the signature applique for Tura.

Sturdiness in every part: lens mountings for Tura vintage cateye glasses

            The desire to make Tura glasses high quality (in contrast to some cheap American glasses of the time) also informed some other design decisions of Monroe B. Levoy or those working under him. For example, rather than lightweight screws to hold the eyerims closed around the lenses, tiny nuts and bolts with hexagonal nuts were used on some aluminum cat eye glasses from the Tura range.

Tura’s non-metallic cateye glasses – Lucite sunglasses

       cateye glasses     Tura did not focus solely on aluminum cat eye glasses, though these were a major slice of the firm’s business. The company also made Lucite sunglasses with the cats eye shape – vastly exaggerated in some cases. Some mid Fifties styles of vintage eyewear, for example, feature very wide eyerims decorated with stripes of laminated tinsel for a scintillating, fun effect that seems even now to evoke the bright sun of Caribbean beaches or the glitz and excitement of a party beneath the stars of a tropical resort.

Lucite is a polymer product that is considerably tougher than styrene type plastics and is very shock resistant, though it will burn poisonously at 460° F. It is also very lightweight, so although the extravagant eyerims created by Tura for these flashy vintage eye glasses cover a third of the wearer’s face, they remain light and comfortable to wear. Since Lucite is shatter-resistant, these glasses could be dropped with little risk of breakage.

Though Lucite is usually used for more robust purposes than cateye glasses – such as car headlamp lenses, armored windows in police cars, and bathyscaphe windows – Tura showed the willingness of mid 20th century manufacturers to make use of any available materials, and probably contributed to the fund of knowledge about Lucite manufacture and molding.

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