Vintage sunglasses are original items of eyewear designed to be worn in bright sunlight, as protection against the sun's rays.
History & Description
Spectacles with tinted lenses were first conceived in the mid-eighteenth century by the English optician James Ayscough who believed that green or blue tinted glasses could aid those with impaired vision. However, these early examples were not concerned with protecting one’s eyes from the sun’s rays.
Although sunglasses were available in the early-1900s, it was not until the introduction of Edwin H. Land’s patented Polaroid filter in 1936 that sunglasses started to improve visual comfort by protecting the eyes from glare and ultraviolet light.
Some of the most popular styles of shades include aviators, gradient, mirrored, oversized, teashades and wayfarers.
Guide for collectors
Instances of vintage sunglasses sold through national auction houses are quite common although the most valuable and important examples are usually sold through international auctioneers like Christie’s.
Collectors should look out for vintage examples manufactured by Christian Dior, Gucci, Ray Ban and Paulette Guinet as these tend to achieve the highest prices at auction. Additionally, pieces that once belonged to a celebrity can sell for thousands of dollars (see below).
Notable auction sales
On December 14th 2005 at Christie’s in London, a pair of Ran Ban aviator sunglasses, owned by Bruce Lee circa 1970s, realised a price of £4,200.
On November 21st 2005 at Christie’s in New York, a pair of Ray Ban wayfarer sunglasses, owned by Bob Dylan, circa 1960s, realised a price of $3,120.
On July 14th 2010 at Christie’s in New York, a pair of Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, owned by American singer and cowboy actor Roy Rogers, circa 1970s, realised a price of $2,750.
On May 19th 2012 at Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland, California, a vintage pair of Paulette Guinet sunglasses and a pair of vintage Auguste Bonaz sunglasses realised a price of $425 and $400.
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