Jewelry-inspired spectacles made from precious metals and decked out with gems offer a taste of the high life.
There’s top of the line, and then there’s the tippy top of the line. A select number of manufacturers produce eyewear that’s fancy enough to wear with a couture dress from Gucci and a vintage Judith Leiber purse. The customer for this type of purchase seeks a premium pair of glasses,
often made just for them.
Frederic De Muenynck, a European optician who hails from a long line of eyecare professionals, operates two stores in Monaco and cares for many of the royal families in Europe. “Through our experience, premium customers definitely do not want frames that casual customers can buy. High end is not just dealing with price but rather exclusivity and luxury,”
De Muenynck said.
Jessica Reyes Mileti, manager of Clairmont Nichols Opticians in New York City, said that it’s important to carry prestigious frames to set your retail establishment apart. “Some customers have a special
occasion for which they want eyewear that will be like jewelry, and some just like to treat themselves to a pair of glasses that makes them feel good.”
The first step is using premium materials, and the Atelier collection from Silhouette does just that. The elegant frames are made with 18-karat yellow, white or rose gold and then get taken a notch up with ethically sourced diamonds, rubies and sapphires. According to Silvia McGinley, Atelier brand manager, each gemstone is selected by hand and all inlay woods are acquired from certified producers “to create custom-made contemporary precious eyewear that underlines the unique personality of the wearer.” For fall/winter ’17, Atelier will offer art deco-inspired designs with clear geometric lines, onyx stones and baguette diamonds.
Precious metals and high-end bling also take center stage in Ørgreen’s Grand Danois collection. “The name reflects Ørgreen’s pedigree of materials, precision and regal designs,” explained Eja Johansen, PR and communications manager. A base layer of 24-karat gold is topped with a layer of either 18-karat gold, palladium or ruthenium in addition to diamond details; the collection appeals to the wearer who craves a “contemporary yet timeless look.” In adherence with United Nations guidelines, Ørgreen Optics sources ethically, supporting the elimination of “conflict diamonds.”
Debuting for SILMO, a sun collection from designer Sheila Vance of Sama Eyewear in collaboration with jewelry designer Loree Rodkin finds inspiration in decadence and drama. “From the couture and pret-a-porter runways, we saw fabulous statement jewelry done in incredible crystals, onyx, minerals and gold,” Vance said. “There was also an influence that [Loree Rodkin] was intrigued with—Bijoux Punk—that was adapted in the colors, styles and placements of stones.” The Loree Rodkin by Sama Eyewear collection uses plating in 24-karat yellow gold, 18-karat rose gold and genuine platinum to showcase custom Swarovski crystals as well as skulls, studs and other art deco shapes in cut onyx and marcasite.
This caliber of eyewear takes longer to produce than its economical counterparts, and Reyes Mileti explained that this level of artisanship can lead to lifelong customers. “I think brand loyalty starts when a client buys that frame for the first time and they realize that the quality will last much longer than the average frame,” she said. “When people move into this category of eyewear, they want the frame to be durable, attractive and something they look forward to wearing.”
A single frame in the Grand Danois collection takes a painstaking seven to eight months to produce, according to Johansen. Each style is set with one to 10 high-quality diamonds, appearing as a luxurious yet subtle detail.”
Atelier frames can take 10 to 12 weeks, depending on the design/embellishment ordered, according to McGinley. “Each piece is truly a work of art from start to finish–with more than 240 steps meticulously crafted by hand in our workshop,” she said.
While a labor-intensive, precious metal and gemstone-adorned pair of eyewear may not be recognized for its true value to those other than the wearer, that really doesn’t matter. De Muenynck likens jewelry-inspired eyewear to having a custom-made suit with a beautiful inner lining that no one sees, but the wearer knows it’s there. “Our patients are mainly looking for two things: exclusivity and social status. Knowing that it is high-end makes them feel proud.”