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Eyeglass Collection

The Martha Stewart Show, July 2008

Eclectic collector Peter Arnell joins Martha to share his beautiful eyeglass collection, which is a fascinating walk through history.

Circa 1720 from Shanghai, China
-Made during the time of the longest reigning emperor of China (61 years), Kangxi.
-Peter Arnell's oldest pair.
-Frames are round and made of brass and tortoiseshell.
-Dangerously delicate; have no arms to rest on the ears.
-Remarkably manage to balance on nose with a bridge and nose sitter.

Pince-Nez
-English, from 1810.
-Originated in Liverpool, the last year of Georgian era in Britain, which reigned of kings George I through IV.
-Time of immense social change with the beginnings of Industrial Revolution, shortly succeeded by the Regency Period.
-Popular middle-class eyeglasses for men and women before end of 19th century.
-Spectacles without sides; clamp the bridge of the nose.
-Small, round framed, with C-shaped bridge.
-Bridge is flexible metal piece providing the tension needed to stay on nose.

Nose-Sitter Spectacles
-Made in Germany in 1820 during Weimar period (political and social unrest).
-This one has a nose sitter with an ear-loop chain.
-Very small. Frames are round and silver.

American
-Circa 1840s, made of steel. Small, round lenses.
-In U.S. the Oregon trail began in 1843, and the first major wagon headed to the Northwest.
-William H. Harrison: 1841; John Tyler: 1841-1845; James Polk: 1845-1849; Zachary Taylor: 1849-1850.

Ceremonial Glasses, Circa 1920
-Emperor Puyi was born in 1906 and became the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty in China at the age of 2.
-His English teacher noticed he needed glasses. Advisers objected; too Western, but Puyi overruled and wore them the rest of his life.
-Tortoiseshell frames, hand-carved crystal lenses.

Glasses Inspired by Le Corbusier
-The design inspired by Le Corbusier, famous architect known for contributions to what is now called "Modern Architecture."
-These are the only pair in existence in ebony. Also known as India Ebony or Ceylon ebony, depending on origin. Trees are native to southern India and Sri Lanka.
-Frames are heavy, black and dense because ebony heartwood is one of the most intense black woods known. One of the very few that sinks in water.
-Have bigger lenses compared to the other glasses.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Peter Arnell the Founder and CEO of the Arnell Group for sharing his eyeglasses collection.