A Brief History of Glasses

A Brief History of Glasses

Posted Dec 12, 2017 | Tips, Tricks & Tech

9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Evolution of Eyewear

It’s easy to take your glasses for granted, but they weren’t always as easy to come by (or as easy to wear) as they are today.

Visual impairment has always been an issue, but it wasn’t until the last few decades that we had comfortable and stylish spectacles. In fact, there’ve been some downright silly solutions in the history of eyewear.

For example, in the 12th century, monks used polished stones to magnify text. And even up until the 1800s, it was considered rude to sport eyewear in public. Can you imagine not being able to wear your super trendy Chloé glasses to the theatre because it was tre gauche to do so?

Oh, and the process of getting the right pair wasn’t easy either. Instead of going to a friendly eye doctor, you would choose from a basket of different glasses to find the lens that best fit your needs. I mean, what if the lens that fit you came with ugly frames? The horror!

Luckily, with plenty of options that are both stylish and comfortable, glasses-wearers today have it better than ever. But to appreciate where we’ve come from, take a look at our infographic tracing the evolution of eyewear through the centuries.

Here are some historical highlights that demonstrate how glasses have changed over time:

  • Reading rocks (1100s): Called lapides ad legendumin in Latin, these polished stones were used to magnify text from love letters, historical documents, and medieval post-it notes.
  • Glasses are invented… sort of (1200s): Salvino D’Armate is said to have invented glasses in 1285, but you wouldn’t recognize these specs made of bone or metal with quartz lenses.
  • Glass lenses are introduced (1300s): Venetian craftsmen can take credit for using glass instead of stone as lenses.
  • Supply, meet demand (1400s): With the invention of the printing press, the demand for specs spiked.
  • First spectacles shop opens in the UK (1629): Eyewear becomes a brick-and-mortar business.
  • Comfort is king (1700s): You can thank British optician Edward Scarlett for inventing the around-the-ear glasses. Otherwise, you might still be wearing a monocle!
  • Pick your own prescription (1800s): Optometry wasn’t really a thing yet, so most people picked new glasses from a basket of various prescriptions.
  • Fashion, fashion, baby (1900s): The turn of the century saw the greatest development in eyewear as fashion and technology led to increased comfort and utility.
  • Nerds rule (2000s): Glasses are on trend and lens tech allows for some pretty sweet upgrades. And at Eyeconic, you can choose from retro, classic, modern, and practical styles all in one place. What a time to be alive!

​If you’re looking for the most convenient way to buy quality eyeglasses, check out Eyeconic’s marvelous selection of stylish eyewear