Material matters in glasses repair

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At AlphaOmega Glasses Repair we come across spectacles and sunglasses manufactured from a huge range of materials in our busy workshops.

Spectacle repairs to frames and lenses can be challenging as glasses come in such a wide variety of materials, designs and colours, from cheap plastic to precious metals.

Each spectacle frame material has its own unique qualities in terms of strength, durability, weight, colour and price but our highly trained and experienced staff are always up to the repair task.

Here is a rundown of the main materials that go into manufacturing modern-day spectacles and sunglasses.

Nylon sunglasses

Spectacle frames made of nylon were introduced after World War Two but the brittle nature of early plastics forced manufacturers to switch to the far superior nylons, even if they were more expensive.

Modern blended nylon frames have the advantage of being both strong, pliable, durable and lightweight — all factors that play a big part in providing comfort for the wearer and long life for the product.

Today blended nylon is still the material of choice for sports and performance frames. These are usually made of gliamides, grilamid or trogamid blends as these can cope with hot and cold conditions without becoming brittle with use.

They can also be easily shaped to create the modern wraparound sunglasses styles that have become so popular. The pliable nature of the material also makes the job much easier when it comes to glasses repair.

One of the most popular materials for modern sunglasses is a cellulose acetate called zylonite. This offers cheap, lightweight frames that also come in a vast range of colours, a real bonus for modern eyewear manufacturers.

Another popular cellulose acetate on the market, today is called propionate. This type of nylon is both lightweight and hypoallergenic. The colours also have a high gloss sheen that make it the material of choice for the more outrageous and eye-catching designer sunglasses often seen on the shop shelves today.

Sunglasses repair of nylon frames does present some problems. Nylon-based glasses are easier to break than those with metal frames and they still have a tendency to become a little more more brittle with age, especially after long exposure to sunlight.

Metal framed spectacles

Spectacle frames may be manufactured from a broad range of metals. Many of the cheaper spectacles made today are mainly a blend of metals known a monel, preferred for its high malleability and resistance to corrosion.

However, some people can find the nickel in monel-manufactured spectacles mildly irritating to the skin, so more expensive frames are now plated with palladium or some other nickel-free alloy.

Stainless steel glasses frames are a good alternative to monel as they combine low weight with low toxicity and high strength. Stainless steel is an alloy of steel and chromium but spectacle frames will often contain other metal elements.

It's the addition of chromium that gives excellent resistance to corrosion, abrasion and heat. Being free of nickel, stainless steel glasses are also hypoallergenic.

Spectacle frames may also be made from aluminium. These are lightweight, corrosion-resistant and much favoured by high-end designers who like the unique look of aluminium spectacles. But pure aluminium is actually quite soft and weak so small amounts of silicon are often for strength and durability.

Titanium has become a popular material for spectacle frames in recent years. Titanium is lightweight, durable, hypoallergenic, resistant to corrosion and comes in a variety of colours.

Titanium is also expensive so, In order to reduce costs, some frames are made from an alloy of titanium that includes other metals, such as nickel or copper.

Beryllium is another low-cost alternative to titanium and makes an excellent choice for those with high skin acidity or who spend a good deal of time in the sea, or other salt water environments. Lightweight, strong and flexible beryllium spectacles come in a wide range of colours.

Precious metals

In the search for unique spectacle frames to tempt potential customers, designers have turned to some unusual materials.

In glasses repair, our technicians occasionally come across silver spectacle frames. Solid silver is much too heavy to be comfortable to wear but silver can sometimes be used in the alloy to give a jewel-like accent to nylon frames.

Like silver, gold plating can also be used for accenting plastic or metal frames as are precious or semi-precious stones. Popular stones are onyx and turquoise but even diamonds can be used for an added touch of glamour.

Clearly glasses repair of gold or diamond spectacles may require the need for particular care to be taken but the approach is much the same as with non-precious materials.

Rhinestones, for example, are a much cheaper alternative and are used nowadays to lend a retro look to modern spectacles and sunglasses.

Special materials

Sometimes the staff at AlphaOmega have to deal with special handmade glasses and many of these can be made of unusual materials such as wood, bamboo, bone or animal horn.

These materials can present particular challenges in glasses repair. Although less pliable and durable that other materials they do offer a unique look. We have handled spectacle repairs in buffalo horn, bamboo, even vinyl.

Many unusual materials are sometimes used to lend accents to spectacle frames. Leather, velvet, even feathers can be incorporated into glasses designs and make spectacle repairs a challenging occupation.

Despite the array of materials used in spectacles design, we have the staff and equipment at AlphaOmega to provide the best repair money can buy and at a price you can afford.