Materials that can be found in vintage eyewear

Materials that can be found in vintage eyewear

Material, is the matter from which a thing is or can be made. 

As you read through our product descriptions, you will come across many different materials and there will be some that you don't see be it for safety or ethical reasons. 


Acetate is strong, versatile and our most common material. First produced in 1914 and in common production by the 1930's. Early acetate was brittle and did not hold colours as well, but on the upside it was gentler on the skin and lasted far better in the long term. From the 1950's extrusion processes were used to add more colour to the frames. Mazzucchelli is Italy's oldest and best regarded acetate manufacturer, starting in 1849with just one family, and now in it's sixth generation. Vintage frames, were commonly made of high quality acetate. 

Nina Ricci 1316 Mens Designer Glasses | Mens Vintage Glasses

Nina Ricci 1316 Vintage Designer Glasses


Epoxy Resin / Optyl 

This is a thermosetting (sets permanently when heated) plastic material that does not need a plasticiser. The frames are lightweight, hypoallergenic, durable and retain colour very well. Optyl was created in 1968 by Wilhelm Anger, the material revolutionised the way frames are made to this day. This high quality material has been seen across many of the big brands including, Carrera, Dunhill, Christian Dior, Paloma Picasso and many more. It is not used much in current frame production due to the cost implications of the high quality material. 

Christian Dior 1200 Women's Designer Glasses


Perspex / Lucite

This material is not now used in the manufacturing of spectacles, but was commonly used in the 50's and 60's, particularly prominent in the cat eye styles. A tricky material to glaze, to which we have lot's of experience, and limited in terms of frame adjustments. We strongly recommend that any Perspex frames are glazed by our in house technician, who has many years of experience glazing the frames, and the knowledge to do so successfully. 

Green Envy Women's Retro Glasses | 50s Vintage Glasses

Green Envy 50s Vintage Glasses

Rolled Gold

Created in the 19th Century, rolled gold is the made by the fusing of a base metal, usually copper, brass or silver, between fine sheets of gold. The metals are then bonded using heat and rolled into thin sheets to create the material. Rolled gold is generally a hypoallergenic material and does not cause issues for those with metal allergies. Approximately 5% to 10% of the spectacles are real gold when made of Rolled Gold.

Gold Plated

Gold plated spectacles have a thin layer of gold applied to the top of a base layer (usually copper or silver) by electrochemical or chemical plating. The layer of gold is much thinner than that used on Rolled Gold frames. Brands such as Gérald Genta, Fred, Cartier and Tiffany glasses and sunglasses we're known for using gold plate.

Tiffany Lunettes 129 Gold Plated Mens Designer Glasses

Tiffany Lunettes 129 Mens Designer Glasses 


This natural material was used up until 1973 when thankfully Cites - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the material from being used. We do have some antique tortoiseshell frames, but they are not available for purchase, and remain part of our private collection, for preservation. What has lasted is the pattern itself, which we now refer to as brown mottle. This has remained a timeless classic, and can be seen across, vintage, current and designer glasses to this day. 

Philip Conti Mens Retro Glasses

Philip Mens Retro Glasses


Titanium, is a lightweight, hypoallergenic metal. Stainless steel is similar to titanium but not as lightweight or flexible. Composition metals, make up any other frames that are not specifically labelled. They consist of 2 or more metals and often contain nickel which can cause irritation for anyone who suffers with metal allergies.