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.

Collection Highlights

glasses
Glasses, by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1930s, UK
sunglasses
(Detail) Jester, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1954, UK
monocle
Monocle, about 1900 – 30, Britain
glasses
Glasses, designed by Cutler and Gross, 1979, UK
sunglasses
(Detail) Shah, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1972, UK
spectacles
Spectacles worn by Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage, designed by Stephen Adnitt, made by Anglo-American Optical, 1997, London, England
sunglasses
Koko, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1960s, UK
sunglasses
Tennis Rackets, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1956, UK
lorngette
Lorngette, 19th century, Britain
opera glasses
Opera glasses, 19th century, Europe
spectacle case and spectacles
Spectacle case linked to James II and spectacles, France
child's spectacle frames
Child's spectacle frames, commissioned by National Health Service, 1960 – 69, UK
sunglasses
Fuz, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, about 1964, UK
sunglasses and case
Wayfarer sunglasses and case, designed by Ray-Ban, manufactured by Bausch & Lomb, 1990, US
sunglasses
Bamboo, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1962, UK
sunglasses
The Martian, sunglasses, manufactured by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1950s, UK

Features

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