Spectacle Frame Materials

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Spectacle Frames

Different frame materials greatly expand your options for a new look. While shopping for new frames or even sunglasses, ask us for advice about frame styling that compliments your face shape and your desired image.

There are thousands of frame styles that can be categorised by their colour, durability, lightness, their brand, their materials, their shape and of course, by their price.

In fact, helping you in finding specs that you have the qualities that you desire is our passion!

It could be as simple as choosing the right frame material, since each type has its own unique strengths, or it could be a full blown frame styling appointment where you will spend time with a highly trained frame stylist to ensure that you achieve your desired look.


Plastic Frames

If you want the colours of the rainbow, then acetate is your material. Acetate is a very creative option for eyewear and is usually lightweight. Particularly popular right now are laminated acetate frames that have layered deeper colours usually sat in front of lighter base acetate layers . The light colours on the interior sides, which can make your eyewear “disappear” from your visual field when you wear them. An all-black frame, on the other hand, is usually visible at all times on both interior and exterior sides.

Cheaper plastic frames are usually mould injected and as such are made from a cheaper material and are usually a single colour (or mixed with clear plastic during the moulding process)

Some manufacturers also use cellulose acetate propionate, a nylon-based plastic that is hypoallergenic. It’s lightweight and has more transparency and gloss than other plastics. If your main criterion for a frame is lightness, then definitely consider propionate frames.

Frames made of nylon were introduced in the late 1940s. Because of brittleness and other problems, eyeglass manufacturers switched to blended nylon (polyamides, co-polyamides and gliamides). Today’s blended nylon frames are both strong and lightweight.

Nylon is also a premier material for sports and performance frames, typically made of gliamides, grilamid or trogamid materials that are very resistant to hot and cold and are more flexible, yet also stiff. Nylon also is easily molded into today’s popular wraparound styles, as well as other shapes that are difficult to produce.

It may sound odd, but plastic made of castor oil (actually, castor seed oil) is now used in some eyewear. Traditionally used as a laxative, a soap ingredient and a machinery lubricant, castor oil is also making its way into plastic auto parts, along with other non-petroleum-based plastics. Reasons for castor oil plastic development include the high price of petroleum and the ease of growing castor bean plants in places where other profitable plants don’t thrive.

Plastic frames do have some drawbacks. They are easier to break than metal frames, they will burn (but are not easily ignited), and aging and exposure to sunlight decrease their strength slightly. Colour can fade over time, but not as much with modern materials.


Metal Frames

Cheaper metal frames are usually made from a special alloy that is known as ‘Monel’. This is a mixture of any of a broad range of metals — It is the most widely used material in the manufacture of spectacle frames. Its malleability and corrosion resistance are pluses.

The plating of monel metal frames with a quality thicker plate and the quality of the joints and assembly will often dictate the difference between a frame costing under £20 and a much more expensive item

Though most monel frames are usually hypoallergenic, it’s possible people with sensitive skin may experience irritation if any monel rests directly against their face. But this is preventable if the right kind of plating, such as palladium or other nickel-free options, is used.

Titanium and beta-titanium are also popular materials for premium spectacle frames. Titanium is a silver-grey metal that’s lightweight, durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. It has been used for everything from spacecraft to implantable medical devices such as heart valves.

Useful fact: Titanium has 10 times the strength to weight ratio of steel – making it a fantastic spectacle frame material!

Titanium eyewear can be produced in a variety of colours for a clean, modern look with a hint of colour. And it’s hypoallergenic.

Some ‘titanium’ frames are made from an alloy that is a combination of titanium and other metals, such as nickel or copper. In general, titanium alloy frames cost less than 100 percent titanium frames.

Beryllium, a steel-grey metal, is a lower-cost alternative to titanium eyewear. It resists corrosion and tarnish, making it an excellent choice for wearers who have high skin acidity or spend a good amount of time in or around salt water.

Beryllium is also lightweight, very strong, very flexible (making it easy for an optician to adjust your glasses) and available in a wide range of colours.

Stainless steel frames and surgical stainless are another alternative to titanium. Qualities of stainless steel frames include light weight, low toxicity and strength; many stainless steel frames also are nickel-free and thus hypoallergenic.

Stainless steel is readily available and reasonably priced. It’s an alloy of steel and chromium, and may also contain another element. Most stainless steels contain anywhere from 10 to 30 percent chromium, which provides excellent resistance to corrosion, abrasion and heat.

Flexon is a titanium-based alloy. This unique and popular material, originated by the manufacturer Marchon, and is also often called “memory metal.” Frames made of Flexon come back into shape even after twisting or bending. Flexon frames are lightweight, hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.

Frames made from aluminum are lightweight and highly corrosion-resistant. Aluminum is used primarily by high-end eyewear designers because of the unique look it creates.

Aluminum is the world’s most abundant and widely used nonferrous metal (metal other than iron or steel). Pure aluminum is actually soft and weak, but commercial aluminum with small amounts of silicon and iron become hard and strong.


Unusual Frame Materials

Want a distinctive style? Willing to pay for it? Try frames or design accents made from these materials.

Solid silver or sterling silver is not used commonly as a principal frame material because it doesn’t make very wearable or comfortable frames. Sometimes silver is used as a trace element in metal alloy frames and often provides a jewelry-like accent on plastic frames.

Some companies make gold eyewear, typically gold plating rather than solid gold. Like silver, gold can be used for accenting plastic or metal frames as well.

Wood, bone and buffalo horn frames usually are handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces. Wood and bone, though stiffer, less adjustable and much more expensive than other frame materials, are appealing because of their unique beauty. Buffalo horn frames have an elegant look and warm to your body temperature; they can feel unlike any other frame you’ve ever worn before.

Often used on temples or across frame fronts, leather is not as durable or practical as other materials used for accenting, but it provides an interesting and fashionable look. Recently, velvet was used to wrap a special-edition sunglass model.

Semi-precious or precious stones and crystals are sometimes used as accents in frames, especially in the temples. Popular choices are onyx, turquoise and Swarovski crystals; but even diamonds can be used for a luxurious touch. Such designs usually are worn in a formal office or on dressy occasions. Rhinestones are a less expensive alternative and often are used to create a flashy or retro look, especially in upturned “cat’s eye” frames.

Are You Allergic to Your Eyeglass Frame?

Do certain frame or nose pad materials irritate your skin? Tell your optician, who can help you find frames you can wear comfortably. Here’s the lowdown on materials:

If metal frames cause a reaction, nickel is usually the culprit because most metal frames are made of a nickel alloy. Other metals used include aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, zinc, copper, beryllium, gold and silver. Stainless, titanium, gold and silver are usually hypoallergenic.

Some people are allergic to the nose pads on metal frames. Most are made of silicone or acetate, but they also can be made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), nickel, titanium or rubber. Silicone is tricky: certain silicones are hypoallergenic (such as medical silicone), but others can trigger allergic reactions. Both PVC and titanium are usually hypoallergenic.

Most plastic glasses are made of zyl (also called zylonite, acetate and cellulose acetate) or propionate. Other materials used in plastic frames include polyamide, nylon, polycarbonate, carbon and Optyl (a brand of epoxy resin). Propionate, polyamide, nylon and Optyl frames are all considered hypoallergenic.

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