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.


-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.


-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.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
January 6, 2019
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