It’s estimated that more than 60% of the world’s population uses some kind
of corrective eyewear. Before we had thousands of frame and lense combinations
to choose from, people used basic materials like gems and ribbon to keep their
eyewear in place. Glasses have been around since 1000 CE, but back then, they
weren’t nearly as fancy as the choices you have now.
The First Incarnation Appeared in
Although the creation of eyewear is attributed to
13th century Italy, the first incarnation of a vision aid appeared 1000 CE. An
unknown inventor found that glass could be shaped and polished to magnify small
text. This came to be known as a reading stone. These reading stones
were made from rock crystal and glass, and given to monks to help them read
Smoked Quartz Sunglasses
About 300 years after the creation of the reading
stone, Chinese inventors used smoked quartz to create sunglasses. Crude
slabs of smoked quarts were shaped to be held over eyes. These dark lenses were
made for the wealthy and were not vision-correcting. They also didn’t protect
against harmful rays. Although this form of sunglasses is seen as an outdated
option, you can still find vintage smoked quartz glasses for sale.
Emeralds for Eyes
Long before the smoked quartz sunglasses, Roman
Emperor Nero was using emeralds as sunglasses. His reign was from 54
to 68 CE, so this is regarded as an extremely primitive way of blocking UV rays.
When at the coliseum to watch a gladiator fight, he would hold two emeralds up
to his eyes. Emeralds can be worth more than diamonds, so it is possible that
Nero’s makeshift sunglasses were the most expensive pair to ever be worn.
For centuries after eyeglass was created, most
people utilized the glass by just sticking it up to their eye or what they were
reading. However, in the 1700s the Spanish grew tired of holding up their
eyewear. So they manufactured fixed ribbons onto the lenses to keep them from
slipping off. The ribbon would sit on the bridge of the nose, and wrap around
the ears. This eventually lead to the modern glasses look we know and love.
in the 14th Century
Although we know that glasses were likely created
in the 13th century, they weren’t actually illustrated until 100 years later.
The first artist rendition of someone wearing modern eyeglasses was a painting
by Tommaso da Modena. He painted monks wearing
monocles and early pince-nez style glasses to read and write manuscripts.
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