Why Are Glasses So Expensive?

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

As opticians, we get asked a myriad of questions, everyday…

“How different is my new prescription from my old prescription?”

“Is a progressive lens the same as a bi-focal, or a tri-focal?”

“What’s the difference between a polarized lens and a tinted lens?”

And so on...

But, one of the most common questions we get is, “Why are glasses so expensive?”

And, that’s a fair question. One we’ve had to answer for ourselves, as well.

Just as there are many parts and pieces that go into, not only the glasses themselves, but the making of the glasses - there are also many pieces that complete the answer to the puzzling question of why they can be so pricey. One short ‘blanket statement’ answer will not suffice.

Let’s start with the raw materials that are used.

While it’s true that most glasses are made up of plastic, or wire, and some screws, the story doesn’t begin with the raw materials used. For high quality glasses, the story begins long before they’re actually manufactured. It begins with the designer, and the people behind the glasses - which is part of what you’re paying for.

The following shows some of the design process of LaFont - a high end Parisien eyewear line:

LAFONT Lunetier Parisien - editor's cut .

You’re not just paying for the materials themselves when you buy glasses. You’re also paying

for the creativity, effort, and energy that went into making that pair of glasses. The designers and artisans time and talent. All in addition to the raw materials - and the higher quality of the materials - the more that will be reflected in the cost. Not all plastics and metals are created equal.

For instance, Mazucchelli 1849 is a family owned business, (that goes back 6 generations), in Italy. They produce, supply, and manufacture high quality, handmade, Italian acetate. This acetate is used for a lot of high end glasses brands such as: Oliver Peoples, Lafont, Tom Ford, and Alain Mikli - just to name a few.

It’s quite the process:

Manufacturing acetate for high quality eyewear .

The more intricate the color(s) and design of a frame, the longer it takes.

Not many people know this, but it can take 8 - 14 weeks to manufacture certain frames. This involves 120 - 220 successive operations.

So, when you hear statements like, “It only cost them ‘x’ amount to make that frame.”, keep in mind that’s only the cost of the raw materials.

Now let’s move on to some other aspects that differentiate high quality glasses from lower quality.

In lower quality frame designs, there are some noticeable differences and aspects that will tip you off - if you know what to look for.

Differences such as adding decoration to mimic quality.

Example: High quality brands, such as Oliver Peoples, will use actual rivets/riveting in their design. Lower quality brands try to mimic the shapes and styles of high end frames. Decorations and/or embellishments will be added to some of their frames to mimic quality - such as painted dots to mimic ‘rivets’ - that aren’t actual rivets at all. Just a surface decal.

Another difference is that it takes less time to manufacture glasses that are lower in quality - not the 8 -14 weeks timeline mentioned above. Many of these lower quality frames are what we call injection mold frames. Injection molding is a manufacturing process for producing parts by injecting molten material into a mold. Injection molding can be performed with a host of materials including metals, confections, and most commonly thermoplastic and thermosetting polymers. Material for the part is fed into a heated barrel, mixed (using a helical shaped screw), and injected into a mold cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity.

Manufacturers can make a lot of glasses in a shorter timeline using this method.

The video below will give you an idea of the process:

Not to say all injection mold frames are of low quality. Some injection mold frames can be very nice - it all depends on the type and quality of material they are injected with.

High end brand names such as Prada, Gucci, LaFont, and the like, have a reputation and product to uphold. These reputations took years, and sometimes decades to build. And because they have these reputations to uphold, they put a lot of money and effort into their products and materials used. Not only their products, but their brand image, quality control, etc. Not to mention these high end brands typically have excellent warranties.

One can purchase a pair of shoes from a ‘Big Box Store’, but they will vary greatly in quality from a pair of shoes purchased from Armani. The same goes for glasses.

Whether you have a champagne appetite on a beer income, or an income to match that champagne appetite - come visit us at Frameworks Eyewear - where we will tailor your glasses to not only fit your style, but your budget as well.


1.Wikipedia/Injection Molding

Web Accessed: 28 January 2020.

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