The first eyeglasses were made from materials, whalebone, ivory (illegal now), wood and even skin. Most eyewear today is made from materials such as: Nylon, Aluminum, Carbon Fiber Graphite, titanium, zyl acetate, stainless steel, monel, copper beryllium. A few jewelers and craftsmen are making real gold and silver.
There is a growth of bio-materials using materials from sources like castor beans. Even re-known acetate manufacturer Mazzucchelli is making eco-friendly materials. Companies have continued to innovate and experiment with new materials, new textures and new looks. The strongest trend we see is using reclaimed materials, including metals.
We have updated our growing list of innovative, unique and some bizarre eyeglass materials. We love them all and can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for our next bi-annual update.
1.) Airplanes; There are thousands of planes that are moth-balled every year in boneyards. With over 80% of an airplane being reusable, it make ecological sense to create eyewear for high flyers. Airborn Eyewear has the ticket to jet anywhere with these up cycled airplane parts. Since 2011, the limited edition Airborn Eyewear have been created out of old airplanes. These are all handmade in a small factory in southern Germany.
Wood and Grass: Over the last 5 years we have seen the growth of wood, bamboo and grass eyewear. There are over 500 eyewear/sunwear companies that we know about. Anybody can start a wood eyewear company, go to alibaba and order bamboo, skate-deck or wood frames online and start a website.Voila, you have a business. There are several problems with this in the USA. Does that eyewear have a country of origin, if not, it is illegal. Does that eyewear meet Federal safety standards in the US? That said, our focus here is unusual wood materials, such as eyewear from driftwood, baseball bats, whiskey barrels, abandoned homes, lobster traps and even guitars.
2.) Hemp (Grass): Hemp is one of the most eco friendly natural materials in the world. Easy and fast to grow, uses little or no pesticides, can be grown almost everywhere, which is why hemp has been used for 1000’s of years and has 1000’s of uses. Over the last several years, several companies have tried to make Hemp Eyewear, but it took via Kickstarter, the first Hemp Eyewear business. out of the UK was funded.
In another Kickstarter Campaign, Kanesis wants to launch hemp pinhole glass using Hemp 3D. Interesting concept and very eco-friendly.
3.) Twigs and fallen wood: We have seen eyewear from driftwood and from twigs.
4.) Lobster Traps: Traps Eyewear reclaims wood lobster traps in Maine.
5.) Whisky Barrels: Two companies have reclaimed wood from whiskey barrels. WoodZee and Shwood.
6.) Wine Barrels: if it is good enough for whiskey, it is good enough for wine. Designed and made by Woodzee, in 2013, the Robert Mondavi Private Selection X Woodzee Sierra Sunglasses
7.) Baseball Bats: Shwood hit a home run with this limited edition sunwear from Louieville Slugger baseball bats.
9.) Reclaimed Flooring: There is one flooring company that has gotten into this market: Campbell Marson is a wood flooring company that made the leap to eyewear.
Woodzee, also had a limited edition Anthology Woods Sunglass collection features twice-recycled, reclaimed hardwood flooring transformed into 105 numbered pairs of limited edition retro sunglasses.
10.) Skateboard Decks: There are only a handful of companies that are making eyewear from reclaimed Skateboards. Dick Moby, Diamond Supply , EQO Optics , Proof Eyewear, Shwood, SK8Shades and Holloway.
11.) Guitars– yes, thousands of guitars are trashed every year and Parkman Sunglasses joined together with Patterson Guitars to create amazing Guitar Glasses. That is music to my ears.
12.) Paper: Most paper is made from natural materials primarily trees. There are several companies that are reusing paper to make eyewear. Again Shwood,made a limited edition Sunglasses made from newspapers
Paper and Paper From Spain, Papper Look, Art Life, Chimm to name a few.
A special mention to Parkman Sunglasses who recycled American money to use as an accent on the temple. The shredded money comes from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
13.) Pinecones: Shwood as part of their Forest Collection, used pinecones in a resin to make eyewear.
14.) Coconuts: Brazilian company Evoke was established in 2001. Their collection of Conscious Design includes sunglasses made with coconut fiber and resin. Not the first eyeglasses made from coconuts.
15.) Bamboo: Bamboo is NOT a wood, it is a grass. No longer is bamboo on the cutting edge of eyewear.Due to low cost imported bamboo from China, many companies are using ‘Eco Friendly’ and floatable bamboo. Bamboo is labeled eco-friendly because it grows very fast and thus is easily replensible. The problem is the worldwide demand for Bamboo is killing off endangered species such as Panda’s who live in Bamboo Forests.
16. Cork is another one of the most eco-friendly materials one can use. It is a material we hope to see more of. You do not cut down any trees, in fact taking the cork a renewable resource is good for the trees. Most of the cork trees (excellent for the environment) are farmed by small independent farmers in the mediterranean. The use of cork in eyeglasses seems to be growing, with more companies utilizing cork as either accents or layers. To our knowledge there are about 10 eyewear companies utilizing cork in their eyewear.
17.) Moss: Another innovation from Shwood involves the use of moss collected in the rain forests of Oregon.
18.) Castor Bean Oil: This new category of eyewear goes into the ‘eco-friendly’ sector. Instead of using oil (plastics) a few companies are deriving their materials from the Castor Bean. Castor Bean are a non-toxic, drought resistant plant. Notable in the use of this material is Zeal Optics.
Rocks: The use of Rocks and Stones while not prevalent seems to be coming out of the experimental stage into long lasting look.
19.) Stone Eyewear: Yes you can use both sticks and stones in eyewear. A readily available resources, there are about seven eyewear companies have use stone. Noteably Shwood Stone Collection and Rolf Spectacles.
20.) Marble Eyewear: There are two companies, Budri and Mora who have created eyewear from marble.
21.) Cement Eyewear: Cement is broken up using stones or rocks. Cement eyewear is NOT common but a few designers have developed cement eyeglasses. Most of these are Art pieces.
Animals: Using animal parts in eyewear has been common for several hundred years. The first eyeglasses were from whale bone, leather and ivory. Today Eyewear is still being created from animals parts such as buffalo horn, reindeers, deer, mammoth tusk, skins and leather.
22.) Mosquitos: As much as we hate this biters, an interesting concept from Fabio Stramare, which is distributed by Faoflex Occhiali, layers mosquitos in a resin substance. The appearance is of a ancient animal trapped in amber.
23.) Deer Antlers: Deers lose their antlers every year and why not reuse this resources? Cerf Bois has a collection of buffalo horn year, but we are liking the texture of the eyewear made with Deer Antlers.
24.) Deer Jaws: Another part of the deer that should not to to waste are the teeth or jaws. Emma Montague’s Mandibular Eyewear collection were created for a show in 2012. We have not seen it since, but it is possible.
25.) Mammoth Tusks. For those who are worried that this is illegal, it is not. That said mammoth tusks have been used here and there over the years. Several companies have reused Mammoth Tusks usually in limited edition quanities. Linda Farrow had a small collection and Kees Wennekendonk in the Netherlands, Alexander Eyewear, Edward Gucewicz and Lindberg all have used Mammoth Tusks. Our favorite is the scrimshaw design from Mammoth Eyewear. (We do not know if they are still in business)
26.) Alpaca Hair: Alpaca’s are the work horse of the Andes. Why not take their hair and imbed in a temple? Cerf Bois did just that.
27.) Buffalo Horn is a rich and beautiful material to use for eyewear. Currently about 50 companies utilizing buffalo horn in eyewear. Many Bespoke Eyeglasses in the market today are out of buffalo horn. Of note: Gold and Wood, Rigards, Gabe (wood and horn) Lewis Fredricks and Rolf Spectacles are known for their Buffalo Horn Eyewear. Note that most of the companies that we know about do not kill water buffalos for their horn.
Animal Skins: The use of skins in eyewear goes back centuries. There are all sorts of animal skins available: Fur, Fish Scales, Stingray, Snake Skin and Leather. You can find snake skin and stingray mainly in embellishments. We even saw a pair of rattlesnake eyeglasses!
28.) Leather; There are a few companies known for the use of leather eyewear: Histoire de Voir, Kuoio Occhiali and Slave to Ancestors.
In particular we love the Holly Amber White upcycled Leather Scraps Eyewear
29.) Fur: Fur is not common, although some of the designers have used fur accents.
Even parts of human can be made into eyewear. A little creepy, but it can be done.
30.) Human Bone: To the best of my knowledge there was only one made.
31.) Human Hair: Swine Studio created the Hair Glasses in 2011 and it was a Hair Raising Viral Experience.
The Ocean giveth: 80% of the air we breath is because of the ocean, much of our food supply comes from the ocean, add in medicine, jobs and recreation, just to tell you how important the ocean is to earth. A few companies have turned to the ocean for eyewear as well.
33.) Salmon Skin: Karun’s Salmon Skin Side Shields are made from discarded Salmon Skin in canneries. They do not stink, instead they are way to reuse the salmon skin.
34.) Sea Shells: Abalone and sea shells are not really common, but seem to be on an upward trend. Two companies Shwood and Eye DNA offer sea shell eyewear. For those that that might be concerned about the Eco-Friendliness of picking sea shells, see an article on Green Eco Services.
Eye DNA Abalone surface with a wood core.
35.) Kelp: Kelp and Algae are being used for many products including fuel and medicine. Naoned is the first to turn seaweed into Eyewear.
36.) Ghost Nets: Ghost nets are the fishing nets that are left behind fishing boats. They kill millions of sea animals a year. Ocean Eyewear is made from Washed ashore Fishing Lines . This a collaborative effort is between Karun and Bureo Skateboards who collect the nets to reuse make eyewear.
37.) Ocean Trash: Human dump over 14 Billion pounds of trash into our ocean every year. The majority of that trash is plastic. Cleaning up the oceans has become a global concern and there are two companies who are trying to clean up ocean plastic and make eyewear. See Plastic Different;y by Norton Point and Sea2See
Eyewear from Found Objects or Trash: With the average person in the US producing 4.3 pounds of waste everyday, why not take that waste and reuse it into eyewear.
38.) Vinyl Records or LP’s Many people didn’t know that there are hundreds of ways to recycle you old LP’s. One great way is to have your favorite album made into a custom pair of eyeglasses. San Diego company Spex Wax reuses old vinyls to make eyewear. They also do custom eyewear. Other companies; Tipton Eyework and Trackswear both create eyewear from old record albums.
39.) From CD’s and DVD’s: Much of the new materials are from trash or reclaimed materials. Many of these innovators are design studios such as Design Company MiniWiz who created the ReView Recycled Frames are made from 2 CD’s and DVDs and agricultural waste from rice husks.
40.) Recycled Trash Filaments For 3D Printing: While this is a concept right now KickFly’s is making eyewear from 95% recycled trash filaments to use to make eyewear via 3D printing
41.) Milk bottles, beach trash and plastics: Australia retailer Dresden Optics is also making eyeglasses from trash. This is what they say on their website:
Dresden’s regular frames are made from fully recyclable nylon. We’ve also made frames from milk bottle lids and beer keg caps donated by local cafes and brewers. We’ve even moulded them from plastic rubbish washed up on Byron Bay’s shores. (To those of you who got behind these experiments with as much excitement as our own, Danke!)
Our search for a plastic that wasn’t already being recycled has continued and recently we struck gold. We’re rapt to have started trials of making frames from ‘ghost nets’ discarded by trawlers and washed up on the beaches of Arnhem Land. The same amazing durability that is so devastating to sea life makes this nylon ideal for us, as it’s high performance and quite stretchy. And a super-high proportion of the net material can be recycled.
43.) Wire: Wire Artist Correy Wyatt of Bent Eyewear takes wire and twists and twirls to make eyewear.
44.) Found Objects/ Steampunk: Most Steampunk shades are made from found objects, watches, wires, mirrors, knives, gaskets, lenses, cans, bottles and whatever else can be found in the trash everywhere.
This is not found objects, just a different material has been used periodically over the years.
45.) Plexiglass is a trend look that come and goes over the years. was a big look back in the 1980’s with a Retrospective Look today. A wonderful material, it can be dyed in various colors, but it is brittle to work with. Linda Farrow recreated the 80’s look in plexiglasses. There are many companies producing the onesie look today using all types of acrylics and plexi-glass.
Textile Eyewear: Millions of pounds of textiles land in landfills every year. A few enterprising eyewear companies are gathering wasted fabrics and reusing in their sunglasses.
46.) Fabric covered Eyewear: While these are not 100% made from textiles, we love the fact that Alchemy outer layer is reused textiles. Their Zero Waste program called T.R.R.P. (Textile Remnant Recycle Program), collects fabric waste from local sources.
47) Denim Eyewear: Denim is iconic. Two companies are starting to layer both old and new denim. Mosevic and Bimbux Barcelona. Both launched via Kickstarter campaigns
48.) Knitted Eyewear? It can be done and there are several options, all in one or an overlay.
49.) Recycled Metals: Reusing old metal saves the environment as mining is notoriously known for violating workers rights and pollution. One of the first eyewear companies to produce eyewear from recycled materials is Nature’s Eyes. Other companies are starting to reuse Recycled Metals: Modo and Proof.
Just to add a little FUN Stuff, we also have:Edible Eyewear? Yes it is possible but I wouldn’t put my prescription in them. These are more statement and artworks.
50.) Sugar These sugar eyeglasses were designed by Giffin’termeer, for an exhibition during tokyo designers week in 2011
51.) From Chocolate: Edible and fun
52.) Legos: Over the years Lego Eyeglasses have been used at statement pieces, runway statements, fun experiments.
53.) Metro Cards: Technically you could fuse and glue metro cards together to actually make eyewear as they are paper.
54.) Computer Parts: With thousands of electronics landing in landfills and leaking toxins into our groundwater, it makes sense to make some fun eyewear.
55.) Coke Eyeglasses: This was a one off from a creative eyecare professional. We love it!
56.) More Found Object Art by Cyrus Kaibu