Eyeglass frame materials greatly expand your options for a new look. While shopping for new eyeglasses or sunglasses, ask us for advice about variety in colors, durability, lightness, favorite brands, hypoallergenic materials and uniqueness.
In fact, finding eyeglasses with the qualities that are most important to you could be as simple as choosing the right frame material, because each type has its own unique strengths.
If you want the colors of the rainbow, then zyl (zylonite, or cellulose acetate) is your material. Zyl is a very cost-effective and creative option for eyewear and is lightweight. Particularly popular right now are laminated zyl frames that have layered colors. Look for light colors 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 visible at all times on both interior and exterior sides.
Eyeglasses made of nylon first 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.
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. Color can fade over time, but not as much with modern materials.
Monel — a mixture of any of a broad range of metals — is the most widely used material in the manufacture of eyeglass frames. Its malleability and corrosion resistance are pluses.
Still, it is not 100 percent corrosion-resistant: for some people, monel can react with their skin chemistry. But this is preventable if the right kind of plating, such as palladium or other nickel-free options, is used.
Many frames are made from titanium and beta-titanium styles these days; titanium is a silver-gray metal that's lightweight, durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. It has been used for everything from the Gemini and Apollo space capsules to medical implants such as heart valves.
Titanium eyewear can be produced in a variety of colors for a clean, modern look with a hint of color. And they're hypoallergenic.
Some titanium farmes are made from an alloy that is a combination of titanium and other metals, such as nickel or copper.
Beryllium, a steel-gray 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 and available in a wide range of colors.
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.
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 not only the world's most abundant, but also the most widely used, nonferrous material. Pure aluminum is actually soft and weak, but commercial aluminum with small amounts of silicon and iron is hard and strong.