Glasses

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From hand-crafted tortoiseshell spectacles to NHS plastic frames and 1980s designer sunglasses, this collection charts the dramatic evolution of glasses from medical necessity to fashion item.

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Charting the development of modern eyewear, the collection includes over 70 frames designed and produced over a 60-year period by the British firm Oliver Goldsmith, in a variety of styles, materials and colours. Other highlights include a mother-of-pearl glasses case which may have belonged to King James II and a pair of flamboyant specs worn by TV persona Dame Edna Everage.

Exploring Glasses

Photo of Glasses,  Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, about 1930s, UK. Museum no. T.242A-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Glasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, about 1930s, UK. Museum no. T.242A-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Jester, sunglasses (detail), Oliver Goldsmith, 1954, England. Museum no. T.243C-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Jester, sunglasses (detail), Oliver Goldsmith, 1954, England. Museum no. T.243C-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Monocle, maker unknown, 1900 – 1930, UK. Museum no. T.345-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Monocle, maker unknown, 1900 – 1930, UK. Museum no. T.345-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Glasses, Cutler and Gross, 1979, UK. Museum no. T.32-1995. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Glasses, Cutler and Gross, 1979, UK. Museum no. T.32-1995. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Shah, sunglasses (detail), Oliver Goldsmith, 1972, England. Museum no. T.244T-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Shah, sunglasses (detail), Oliver Goldsmith, 1972, England. Museum no. T.244T-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Spectacles worn by Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage, designed by Stephen Adnitt, made by Anglo-American Optical, 1997, UK. Museum no. S.155-2017. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Spectacles worn by Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage, designed by Stephen Adnitt, made by Anglo-American Optical, 1997, UK. Museum no. S.155-2017. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Koko, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1960 – 69, UK. Museum no. T.244C-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Koko, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1960 – 69, UK. Museum no. T.244C-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Tennis Rackets, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1956, UK. Museum no. T.243E-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Tennis Rackets, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1956, UK. Museum no. T.243E-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Lorngette, unknown maker, 19th century, UK. Museum no. T.333:1, 2-1996. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Lorngette, unknown maker, 19th century, UK. Museum no. T.333:1, 2-1996. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Opera glasses, 19th century. Museum no. S.320-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Opera glasses, 19th century. Museum no. S.320-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Spectacle case linked to James II and spectacles, unknown maker, probably France. Museum no. W.5 to B-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Spectacle case linked to James II and spectacles, unknown maker, probably France. Museum no. W.5 to B-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Child's spectacle frames, National Health Service, 1960 – 69, UK. Museum no. B.306-1996. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Child's spectacle frames, National Health Service, 1960 – 69, UK. Museum no. B.306-1996. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Fuz sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1964, UK. Museum no. T.244D-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Fuz sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1964, UK. Museum no. T.244D-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Wayfarer sunglasses and case, designed by Ray-Ban, manufactured by Bausch & Lomb, 1990, US. Museum no. T.219&A-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Wayfarer sunglasses and case, designed by Ray-Ban, manufactured by Bausch & Lomb, 1990, US. Museum no. T.219&A-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Bamboo, sunglasses,  Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1962, UK. Museum no. T.243A-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bamboo, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1962, UK. Museum no. T.243A-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of The Martian, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1950 – 59, UK. Museum no. T.243F-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Martian, sunglasses, Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1950 – 59, UK. Museum no. T.243F-1990. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Learn more about Glasses

Background image: Glasses, Cutler and Gross, 1979, UK. Museum no. T.32-1995. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London