There’s nothing quite like finding the perfect pair of glasses. Especially with frames that are comfortable, durable and obviously, fashionable. But most of the time that those ideal frames come at a price--literally. Sure, you can find low-cost frames but like a lot of things in life, the really great ones can be expensive. We know it’s easy to get sticker shock when it comes to glasses so that’s why we decided to take a deep dive to answer the question: why are good glasses frames so costly, and is the price actually worth it?
Living in a Material World
Frame prices are based, for the most part, on one thing: the material used to construct them. Materials range from more common materials (metal, plastic) to more unusual and exotic (wood, leather, animal bone), which means that pricing can range dramatically depending on what you decide best suits you. Each of these different frames also have their own set of pros and cons outside of price based on the type of material used.
Plastic- Plastic glasses frames are on the lower-end of the cost spectrum when it comes to material-type and can come in a number of different types. If you’ve heard of zylonite, nylon, optyl, or cellulose propionate (CAP) frames, then you know a bit about plastic frames already. If you haven’t, it’s important to note that not all plastic frames are created equal.
Cotton acetate – This alternative type of “plastic” is a more natural material made of cotton cellulose and wood pulp. Cotton acetate makes for glasses frames that are durable and resistant to impact and unlike many traditional plastics it is biodegradable and hypoallergenic. Cotton acetate is often used in more high-end eye wear products, not only due to its strength, but also because the material lends itself very well to intricate, layered design work and more vibrant colors. Cotton acetate is also a favorite among opticians because these frames are easier to adjust helping to achieve a comfortable fit.
Zylonite is relatively inexpensive, easily adjustable, and can come in a diverse range of colors and patterns but will also become worn down over time. Nylon frames, on the other hand, are more flexible and essentially unbreakable, but also only come in a limited range of darker colors, and are difficult to adjust once they are molded; the same goes for CAP frames, which are ideal for more elaborate frame designs, but difficult to adjust. Optyl frames have the benefit of being lightweight and hypoallergenic but can also be delicate and difficult to adjust.
On the whole, plastic frames have definite benefits, they’re lightweight, cost-effective, and often come with a high volume of color, pattern, and shape variability. On the other hand, they can also be difficult to adjust, fade in color, and be more susceptible to breaking over time (aside from nylon), especially in comparison to metal frames.
Metal- Metal frames are quite a bit more durable and resistant to the elements than plastic frames. Metal is also generally easier to adjust and can be more lightweight. Metal frames come in an array of different types, including monel, titanium, beryllium, stainless steel, and titanium. This wide variety of different metal bases means that prices for metal frames can range from the less-expensive side of things to extremely expensive and high-end.
Titanium frames have become particularly popular in recent years because of their strength, flexibility, and color and pattern variation, but come at a fairly high price point; this has made beryllium frames quite popular as a cheaper alternative to titanium with similar properties at a fraction of the cost. Stainless steel frames are similarly cost-effective, but lack the flexibility, lightweight quality and stylistic variation that both titanium and beryllium frames provide. Aluminum frames are on the higher-end of metal materials as far as cost goes, in spite of their relative lack of versatility and limited style variance, because aluminum itself has a very distinct look to it that is near-impossible to emulate with another metal or any other blend of metals.
Unusual and Expensive Materials- Metal or plastic frames are the most common, but if you’re looking for something with a touch more luxury, there are other materials that high-end brands will use that will give you a look completely unique to you. Wood, animal horn, and animal bone are all a favorite of higher end brands, as are more conventional material, like silver and leather. Glasses frames with these materials are not necessarily as practical as the more common materials used, but because these frames are usually hand-made, each pair is literally unlike any other.
Are Expensive Frames Worth It?
Generally speaking, we think so. Buying a pair of pricier frames doesn’t mean that you have to go all-in on the leather and buffalo horn; there’s plenty of glasses frames that are a little expensive, but also won’t break the bank. If you’re a regular glasses-wearer, spending a little extra on a higher quality pair of frames with good durability and strength will save you money at the end of the day, because those frames won’t wear down or outright break nearly as quickly as a cheaper pair of frames.
Think of it like this: a pair of frames that costs 150 dollars, but that has the quality to last you six years, is cheaper than buying a new pair of 30 dollar frames every year. If you’re looking for a pair of mid-priced frames that are built to last, 10/10 Optics has a collection of gorgeous eyewear that won’t break the bank.
Still curious about glasses that fall on the more unusual side of things? Our blog “Gorgeous Glasses Frames From Around the World” does a deep dive into all kinds of unique frame brands from all around the globe!