With each visit to a local design eye-wear store, I’m enamored by the eclectic offerings, from Italy and Germany to France and Japan. This particular store is owned by an optometrist, who is also a connoisseur of the style and substance of eye-wear. Plastic frames were well represented, but the ones made of metal were equally, if not more, appealing.
My past metal frame was made by Proksch (which has since become the brand ByWPthe monogram of eye-wear designer Wolfgang Proksch).
Image credit: Frame by ic! Berlin at Flickr
My current frame is designed and manufactured by ic! berlin, part of their metallic! collection which debuted in 2007. But it is no longer in production. The lenses are grooved instead of beveled, while the body is screw-less and composed of stainless steel. These were the features that the optometrist-owner highlighted and which also got me hooked. From the frame’s press release:
Once the retainer clip is in place, the temples are attached. Using an innovative three-prong configuration at the front portion of the temple, the prongs are slid into place so that they articulate with the closed end-piece. Tension is what keeps them in place. They can be as easily removed as they are installed.
One great advantage of the temples on the metallic! frames is that they can be bent without heat. This means that adjusting becomes easier and more convenient for the optician and the patient. It also means that you won’t have to worry about making the temple too hot, not hot enough, distorting the material, etc. It’s also a major time saver.
Besides stainless steel, other metals are used in making eye-wear. From AllAboutVision.com:
Monel is a mixture of any of a broad range of metalsis the most widely used material in the manufacture of eyeglass frames. Its malleability and corrosion resistance are pluses. Still, it is not 100 percent corrosion-resistant: for some people, monel can react with their skin chemistry. But this is preventable if the right kind of plating, such as palladium or other nickel-free options, is used.
Many frame manufacturers offer titanium and beta-titanium styles these days; titanium is a silver-gray metal that’s lightweight, durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. It has been used for everything from the Gemini and Apollo space capsules to medical implants such as heart valves.
Titanium eye-wear can be produced in a variety of colors for a clean, modern look with a hint of color. And they’re hypoallergenic.
Some titanium frames are made from an alloy that is a combination of titanium and other metals, such as nickel or copper. In general, titanium alloy frames cost less than 100 percent titanium frames.
Beryllium, a steel-gray metal, is a lower-cost alternative to titanium eye-wear. It resists corrosion and tarnish, making it an excellent choice for wearers who have high skin acidity or spend a good amount of time in or around salt water.
Flexon is a titanium-based alloy. This unique and popular material, originated by the eyeglass manufacturer Marchon, is called a memory metal: frames made of Flexon come back into shape even after twisting, bending and crushing. Flexon frames are lightweight, hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.
Frames made from aluminum are lightweight and highly corrosion-resistant. Aluminum is used primarily by high-end eye-wear designers because of the unique look it creates.
Aluminum is not only the world’s most abundant, but also the most widely used, nonferrous material. Pure aluminum is actually soft and weak, but commercial aluminum with small amounts of silicon and iron is hard and strong.
The optometrist-owner recently related that, based on his frequent visits with eye-wear vendors, he believes that Japan has resumed the top position in making high-quality framesfollowed by Germany and Italy in second and third positions. Of course, this is his informed opinion as the style and substance of eyeglasses keep evolving. I’ve observed that the frames at my local eye-wear stop change every three years. And the design eye-wear scene remains increasingly competitive as visionaries (pun intended) explore the materials to frame one of the most precious and visible works of art: your face.