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When Were Glasses Invented?

The invention of eyeglasses marked a significant advancement...

The invention of eyeglasses marked a significant advancement in human technology, offering a solution to the age-old problem of poor vision. While the exact date of their creation is debated among historians, it is widely accepted that the first pair of corrective eyeglasses was developed in Italy, somewhere between 1268 and 1300. These early spectacles comprised two magnifying lenses attached by a hinge, designed to sit on the bridge of the nose and aid those with age-related farsightedness.

References to eyeglasses in historical texts have helped trace their origin, with a notable sermon in 1287 by the Italian friar Giordano, who mentioned meeting the inventor of spectacles. The utility and practicality of glasses evolved, with innovations such as the addition of arms that rest over the ears emerging to improve their stability on the wearer's face.

Art also provides clues to the history of eyeglasses, with the earliest portraits showing individuals wearing spectacles dating back to the 14th century. Nevertheless, eyeglasses have certainly come a long way from their rudimentary beginnings, evolving through centuries of refinement to become the indispensable visual aids used by millions around the world today.

Historical Context


glasses on the table

The invention of eyeglasses marks a pivotal advancement in human history, with its origins entwined in antiquity and refined throughout the Middle Ages.

Antiquity to Middle Ages

The concept of magnification has roots stretching back to ancient civilizations, where rudimentary forms of lenses were used to magnify objects for better visibility. It is believed that the idea for spectacles, as a means to correct vision, may have been conceived as early as 1000 B.C. However, these early contributions laid only the groundwork for what would come much later.

Emergence of Lenses

The significant development of wearable glasses emerged in the 13th century, as artisans began crafting lenses with the ability to correct and enhance vision. This innovation was not instant but evolved for several decades. By the late 1200s to early 1300s, Italy became recognized as the birthplace of the first wearable eyeglasses, with evidence pointing to their existence in these periods, serving as a testament to human ingenuity in the quest for improved eyesight.

Invention of Glasses


how glasses were invented

The origins of glasses trace back to the late 13th century in Italy, signifying a pivotal moment in optical technology. These early versions of spectacles were rudimentary yet marked the beginning of vision correction as we understand it today.

Salvino D'Armate's Contribution

Salvino D'Armate is often credited with inventing the first wearable eyeglasses around the end of the 13th century. However, historical records on this are not conclusive, and this claim is sometimes considered more legend than fact.

13th Century Developments

The 13th century saw significant developments in eyewear, with the first recorded use of lenses for vision correction appearing around 1286. The Italian city of Pisa is frequently mentioned as the birthplace of the earliest eyeglasses, consisting of two magnifying glasses that were held up to the eyes by a handle or were riveted together resting on the nose. These early iterations served primarily as reading aids for monks and scholars.

Evolution of Eyewear


modern technology and advancements

The history of eyeglasses reflects centuries of innovation, from their crude beginnings to the high-tech devices available today.

Renaissance Improvements

During the Renaissance, eyeglasses received significant upgrades in both design and functionality. Notably, the addition of temples that rest over the ears was refined during this period, allowing for a more secure fit. These modifications facilitated widespread use among individuals requiring vision correction.

18th Century Innovations

The 18th century was marked by the introduction of bifocals, a significant innovation attributed to Benjamin Franklin. These allowed for the correction of both nearsightedness and farsightedness simultaneously.


Furthermore, the century saw the development of more durable and effective materials for both frames and lenses, accommodating a greater variety of visual impairments.

Modern Advancements

In recent times, eyewear has gone through a transformation, with advancements such as lightweight plastic lenses, scratch-resistant coatings, and even transition lenses that adapt to changing light conditions. The industry has also seen a surge in customizable options, catering to both aesthetic preferences and specific vision needs. 

Cultural and Social Impact

Glasses have transcended their original purpose of vision correction, impacting culture and society significantly in terms of style and accessibility.

Fashion and Perception

Initially, eyeglasses were solely utilized for practical vision enhancement, but over time, they have become a substantial fashion statement. They have evolved into a tool for expressing individual style, with a variance in frames, colors, and designs that reflect personal taste and trends. Eyewear designers and brands continuously introduce new styles, shaping how glasses are perceived in the fashion industry.

Accessibility and Affordability

The availability and affordability of eyeglasses have seen a dramatic shift. Initially a luxury item, technological advances, and mass production have made glasses more accessible to a wider audience. Various initiatives and organizations work to ensure that those in need, especially in underserved communities, can obtain eyewear, thus broadening the scope of who can benefit from this essential tool for vision correction.

Technological Advancements


client in an ophthalmologist's office


The inception of eyeglasses was a pivotal moment in history, significantly enhanced by two key areas: material innovations and improvements in lens technology. These subsections explore the crucial breakthroughs that have contributed to the development of modern eyewear.

Material Innovations


Originally, eyeglasses were constructed from materials such as wood, leather, and eventually metal and horn.


The search for durability and comfort led to the use of tortoiseshell and steel in the 1700s and 1800s. In the 20th century, the introduction of plastic revolutionized frame production, making glasses lighter and more cost-effective. More recently, flexible and hypoallergenic materials such as titanium and acrylic have become popular, catering to diverse consumer needs and preferences.

Lens Technology

The progression of lens technology began with simple convex lenses for farsightedness and concave lenses for nearsightedness. By the 20th century, glass was largely the material of choice for lenses. However, it posed risks due to its weight and fragility. The solution came in the form of polycarbonate lenses, which are significantly lighter and more impact-resistant. Today, advancements have introduced features such as anti-reflective coatings, UV protection, and blue light filtering to enhance visual comfort and eye health. Additionally, the development of progressive lenses has allowed for multi-focal vision correction, seamlessly integrating different strengths within the same lens.

Jay Zhang

Jay Zhang, with over 5 years of experience, currently serves as the Sales Manager at JIANGSU MAAT OPTICAL TECHNOLOGY CO LTD. He specializes in research and development, as well as manufacturing, of photochromic lenses with a wide range of optional colors. In his role, Jay excels in marketing, customer-focused service, ensuring service quality, and enhancing the overall customer experience. His expertise lies in the commerce sector, contributing to the success of the company in the dynamic Chinese market since January 2023.

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