Oculi de vitro cum capsula!
15 Jun 2017 by Nev Haynes
Today we are going to pay a small tribute to an accessory that has accompanied us throughout our lives. An artificial and nowadays fundamental extension of our body: the glasses.
If it were not for an object as simple and quotidian as the glasses, many of us could not read, drive or even cross the street. The need to use glasses for myopia, astigmatism, farsightedness or presbyopia, to mention the most common visual limitations, has spread massively over the centuries. Remember that scene of “The Name of the Rose”, when William of Baskerville (played by Sean Connery) extracts from his sleeve glasses to read a codex, to the astonishment and admiration of the rest of monks: Oculi de vitro cum capsule! (Translated as “Framed Glass Eyes!” Or fantasizing this modern and more explicit version: “F**k, a pair of glasses!”)
Not surprisingly, since glasses were hand-polished by a glass craftsman, they cost a fortune and were highly prized among Middle Ages students and copyists. Arab technology that in the XIVth century was within reach of very few.
And it is that Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs already knew about the magnifying glasses, which they used to correct defects of sight. Neron’s tutor, Seneca the Younger, already used water glasses to expand the letters of his writings, while his nefarious pupil saw the games in the circus through carved emeralds. But it was not until the treatises on optics of the Persian mathematician and mathematician Alhacén, of century XI, when the effect of the light through magnifying glasses was scientifically documented, even going to study the images that form in the human retina due to the crystalline. Da Vinci, Galilei, Bacon, Descartes, Kepler, Averroes, Leibniz or Spinoza among many others resumed their studies on physics, lenses, reflection and refraction, so we can consider Alhacén the “father of optics.”
Not all of us are fortunate enough to be like “Hawkeye”, the main character of The Last of The Mohicans, able to shoot down an enemy with his carbine at a distance that would make him so legendary in fiction. Many of us have to wear corrective lenses, let alone the current technology allows us to. The “four eyes” nickname that some of us have had to listen to when we were young classified us as myopic or hyperopic, giving us an aura of library rats, much to our regret.
Da Vinci, Galilei, Bacon, Descartes, Kepler, Averroes, Leibniz or Spinoza among many others resumed their studies on physics, lenses, reflection and refraction, so we can consider Alhacén the “father of optics
The old job of “lens polisher” would be equivalent to that of an optician today. The artisans patiently grinding the lenses that rested on the noses of Quevedo, Benjamin Franklin or Toulouse-Lautrec, are the opticians who in recent times have corrected the defects of the eyes of Elton John, Woody Allen or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Nobody gets away. Moreover, in many cases the glasses are an iconic part of the person who carries them. No one imagines John Lennon or a late Elvis Presley without their characteristic glasses, as we cannot conceive of Ray Charles or Roy Orbison without hiding their eyes behind dark glasses.
The latter are not a recent invention, being used by Eskimos a mere 12,000 years ago. They consisted of bone mounts with grooves that, in a basic and simple way, limited to their wearer the amount of sunlight they saw, so intense, white, and harmful in those northern latitudes. In 1430 the sunglasses used in China, consisting of a frame with two crystals of dark quartz, very popular among the judges of that distant country, who stood behind the mystery of their glasses while interrogating the Witnesses in a trial, were brought into Venice.
The first modern sunglasses were patented, produced in series and sold by Sam Foster in New Jersey in 1929. In 1930, the US Air Force commissioned Bausch & Lomb to manufacture lenses for its pilots, which were equipped with the characteristic green crystals, which absorb yellow light from the spectrum, very common at certain altitudes. The Ray Ban company (abbreviation of “light ray banning”) designed with Polaroid the first anti-reflective or polarized glasses, launching in 1937, at the dawn of the SGM, their still famous pilot glasses, that eighty years later maintain the same original design.
The Ray Ban company (abbreviation of “light ray banning”) designed with Polaroid the first anti-reflective or polarized glasses, launching in 1937, at the dawn of the SGM, their still famous pilot glasses
Today, sunglasses not only protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays, but are considered a fashion accessory also. Thus, the Italian region of Belluno concentrates the production of sunglasses for the luxury segment (Gucci, Prada, Armani), an industry that directly employs more than 16,000 people, exporting material that exceeds € 3,000 million a year, with destination to Europe, North America or Asia.
Opticalia Group & Emoji Sunglasses
Gonzalo Arechavala Parra, head of the online channel at Grupo Opticalia, comments: “more and more customers trust the online channel as an effective and valid means to acquire glasses. However, Opticalia believes that it is as important to be efficient in the online market as having a presence in retail, where we offer a guarantee of service and that generates confidence in our brand. We have a very complete and up-to-date catalog on our website, facilitating a large number of stores to our customers so that our opticians can advise them face-to-face in sunglasses, contact lenses or prescription glasses. There’s nothing like having a specialist to help you choose from all the options we can offer.”
Only in Spain the business of optics moves around € 2300 million per year. The establishment of new players, such as Hawkers, with an attractive product and an aggressive price, aimed at young people, tends to lower the price of these accessories, complicating the competition of emerging companies, which have to resort to designs and novel models if they want to give a bite to this big cake.
Pablo Fuente, CEO of Emoji Sunglasses, says: “In Spain, the sunglasses market is very saturated, forcing manufacturers to consider conquering other markets such as Latin America or the Middle East. The customer demands quality, design and competitive price, because he knows that the supply is already there and the market is global. Anyone can have access to a high-quality pair of sunglasses through online distributors. We are continually reinventing our portfolio to make room for ourselves in the industry, distinguishing in design, offering quality lenses and yet we must compete in price against many other manufacturers. At Emoji Sunglasses we want to offer a different product to the rest and attract a young audience that does not want to give up a well-made pair of sunglasses.”
We cannot include in these estimates the black market that moves in the streets. Products manufactured without any homologation (it is estimated that only 1 in 10 glasses illegally purchased comply with the quality and safety regulations established by ISO), flood the sidewalks and cause millionaire losses. According to insurer company Zurich, in 2015 the counterfeit market moved 1.6 billion Euros a year, of which 14% corresponds to the segment of the glasses. Make numbers.
According to insurer company Zurich, in 2015 the counterfeit market moved 1.6 billion Euros a year, of which 14% corresponds to the segment of the glasses
But let’s not forget the other versions of even more exclusive glasses. Technology and optics joined with the emergence of the first – and now primitive – 3D glasses that made the 1950s drive-in cinemas rage. In 2015 the Google Glasses appeared, allowing its holder to be permanently connected to the Internet, as well as record images or receive voice commands. South Korean giant Samsung markets accessories that convert their most advanced mobile phones into glasses with augmented virtual reality. But both Google and Samsung admit that their technology is limited and they plan to temporarily or definitely discontinue the production of these expensive products.
Paradoxically, the old “pockets glasses” are coming back, light glasses without pins that help those who need glasses to read, but do not want to risk losing or breaking such a precious accessory. Brands like Nooz or Thinoptics stand out in this niche market, combining practicality with design, again at a difficult price to beat.
In short, there are so many versions and fashions, so many uses that can be given to a pair of glasses, so many glasses that a human being can collect throughout his life, that it is not surprising that an object that caused a great stir among the monks of The Name of the Rose, nowadays are considered an intrinsic part of our body. The following is yet to be seen: glasses that allow us to see the future, perhaps?