It’s the season of surf and sun, and on this date in the year 1200, the first ‘made in China’ sunglasses were invented. These original spectacles were constructed from smoky quartz, a translucent and gray tinted mineral. Chinese judges used these glasses to cut down on glare, and hide their expressions when questioning witnesses in court. The Chinese however, were not the first culture to create protective eyewear.
The Inuits crafted snow goggles (see photo) to combat snow blindness, a temporary, but painful loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light. A horizontal slit was cut into a thin sheet of wood, ivory or bone and then tied around the face. Versions of these goggles are still used today.
Roman emperor Nero (37-68 AD) was much more flashy. To cut down on glare from the intense Roman sun, he watched gladiator games through polished green gems. Green lenses were also popular with James Ayscough. In the 1750s he created spectacles with greenish-blue lenses with the belief that they would treat a variety of vision problems.
In the early 20th century, sunglasses became a fashion statement, as well as hi-tech. Hollywood celebrities began wearing shades to protect against the blinding flash of the paparazzi. The public wanted in on this glamorous look, and in 1929, Sam Foster began selling his Foster Grants on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
In 1936, Edwin H. Land, co-founder of Polaroid, created the first polarized sunglasses by coating the lenses with a special chemical film to cut glare. A year later, Bausch and Lomb developed the iconic Ray-Ban aviators for the US Air Corp. These sunglasses significantly decreased pilot headaches and nausea, by blocking (banning) blue and white light (rays), hence the name Ray-Ban.
Today sunglasses are polarized, photochromic (lenses darken when exposed to light), anti-reflective, waterproof, scratchproof and mirrored, but most importantly, the ideal type of sunglasses are protective. Ultraviolet light, specifically UV-A and UV-B–the very same demons that give us sunburns and cause a host of skin problems, including cancer—can damage our eyes. The right sunglasses completely block out UV rays thus, protecting us from permanent eye damage such as cataracts and macular degeneration. When you’re out soaking up the sun or just going about your daily fun, make sure you wear proper, protective sunglasses. To learn which sunglasses are best, read Fun Choosey Facts below. Happy 4th!
Fun Choosey Facts: Features to keep in mind when choosing sunglasses:
- Lenses must block 100% UV rays – Must have feature!
- Bigger lenses are better, wrap around is best.
- Darker lenses do not necessarily block more UV.
- Certain lens colors can increase contrast.
- Polarized lenses cut glare, not UV.
- Higher cost does not always mean better protection. Read the label!
Adapted from: How to Choose the Best Sunglasses (May 1, 2015) by Shirley Dang Top_Sunglasses_Tips