08 November 2012

Distinct and Unusual Oliver Goldsmith Eyeglasses from the Victoria & Albert Museum Collections

Oliver Goldsmith created 'Horses' using the outline of two horse heads. The frame was one of a series of animal-inspired shapes the company produced around this time, which also included dogs and ducks. This dramatic design reflects the company's promotion of glasses not as a medical necessity, but as a fashionable accessory.
These spectacles date from the mid-1930s. They are made from tortoiseshell, a rare and difficult material to work with. Tortoises are now an endangered species but at the time these glasses were made, their shells were very popular for spectacles. The frames were cut from a single piece of shell. For manufacture, the plates of which a tortoise's shell is made up are removed, then laminated together to get a block to cut from. This block is then boiled in cottonseed oil to make the material pliable, and then stretched out onto dowels. When set, the tortoiseshell can be cut into a desired shape. 
Oliver Goldsmith created the "Ruanda" frame in 1965. Imitation tortoiseshell became very popular at this time. As an alternative to real tortoiseshell (which by the late 1960s became scarce, expensive and then illegal to buy and sell) plastic imitation tortoiseshell quickly became a style statement.
Charles Oliver Goldsmith designed this frame, "The Little Serpent", in 1955 when the plastic for eyeglasses was still cut and shaped by hand. This frame was likely created for press purposes and is typical of Goldsmith's whimsical post-war designs.
Oliver Goldsmith created this glasses frame, titled 'Miss Dexter' in the mid-1960s. He designed it with a Vogue fashion editor of that name in mind. The Vogue offices were just around the corner from the Oliver Goldsmith workshop; its editors would often come by to select glasses for photo shoots. At the time this frame was designed, Oliver Goldsmith had started to make lighter frames and experiment with new veneer techniques. This design gains its vibrant color from a thin layer of plastic veneer applied to the frame.
Oliver Goldsmith created this glasses frame, titled ‘Polygon’, in 1971, the year that Britain converted its currency to the decimal system. The company registered the design, and received much publicity for its unusual and timely 50-pence shape.
"Noseguard" by Oliver Goldsmith, 1970. 
All text and images sourced from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.