Spectacles, commonly known as eyeglasses, consist of frames containing special lenses that are worn in front on the eyes, nestled atop the nose, to correct vision and protect eyes from the glare of the sun. Though wearable eyeglasses were not invented until the 1200’s, magnifiers were used as early as the 1st century when a globe of glass filled with water was used to see things more clearly. Throughout the years leading to the invention of spectacles that could be worn on the face, other devises were used to enhance small objects and aid people in seeing print more clearly. During the 9th century, reading stones were used. Reading stones were pieces of clear glass that were polished and shaped into round rocks.
As with many things in history, the invention of spectacles is surrounded by much mystery and speculation. The first spectacles contained convex lenses, lenses that are used to correct farsightedness. Convex lenses are lenses in which the surface curves outward. Concave lenses curve inwards and are used to correct nearsightedness. Benjamin Franklin invented the first bifocals in 1784. Suffering from both far-and nearsightedness required that he constantly change spectacles for different activities. Bifocal lenses allowed him to wear one pair of glasses and see things clearly both near and far.
As with almost everything else, spectacles have changed as more is learned about how the eyes work. Technology has also played a large role in the fact that magnifying objects have gone from large pieces of glass held in front of object to light-weight, comfortable eyeglasses that we wear today.
Throughout the years, spectacles have been used to correct the vision as well as make a fashion statement. During the 19th century, scissor glasses (spectacles extending from scissoring stems that were often gilded and highly ornamented) and lorgnettes (spectacles with one ornamental stem) were used more as a fashion statement than to correct the vision of those carrying them. Lorgnettes were considered a piece of jewelry and were used most often at masquerade parties and the opera.
Even today, though they are rarely referred to as spectacles, eyeglasses are used for more than correcting vision. Eyeglasses are often used by those required to wear them as an extension of themselves. People often choose eyeglasses that enhance their personalities and lifestyles, and are fashionable and functional as well. Spectacles, in one form or another, have been around for many years. Today, eyeglass wearers have thousands of styles to choose from.