Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pince-Nez and Reform Dandyism

For those of you who read my other blog, LeDandy (of Northern California), you are well acquainted with the term Reform Dandyism. It is an approach to style that I've finally been able to articulate. In quick summation, Reform Dandyism means dressing to please yourself.* Self empowerment. You are not trying to please others, "dress for success," or impress dates. Reform Dandyism is a simple concept but difficult to achieve as only you know what you really want. There is no formula for your wardrobe as there are with other approaches to style.

So how does this relate to pince-nez? If you want to wear pince-nez, think of Reform Dandyism as an enabling act. It gives you the justification necessary to wear them. No matter how much of a rebel you may be, no one wants to be thought of as a clown or a freak. Lets face reality: you probably haven't seen anyone else wear pince-nez in person as part of their usual wardrobe. This makes you reluctant to wear pince-nez. If you are looking for approval from others to wear pince-nez, you'll never wear them. But if you know they are a part of your intrinsic style, then go ahead and take the plunge. Your desire is all that is necessary. Rest assured that the rimless fingerpiece is perhaps the most modern look of any form of eyewear.

One of the other core principles of Reform Dandyism is responsibility. With self empowerment comes responsibility. You can dress as you like, but you are also responsible for any consequences. What if you work at a place with a Nazi-style dress code and you have mouths to feed at home? You might not want to wear pince-nez at work. Many, many years ago I had a job interview with EDS in Michigan (see LeDandy post, quite funny). I doubt they would approve of pince-nez. Fortunately most places are more relaxed than this repressive employer. Use your own judgment.

I work in San Francisco. Yes, San Francisco is quite a liberal and casual city. I work for a mid-size nonprofit and the dress code is very casual. My boss wears blue jeans and sweatshirts most of the time. It doesn't bother me as I have wide degree of latitude for what I want to wear. Most people wouldn't even notice my pince-nez unless I pointed them out (which I have!). I'm glad to have an environment where I can be myself in terms of appearance.

I've been wearing pince-nez on a full-time basis for the past four months and I love them. I'd never go back to ordinary specs again.
*For a full discussion, please see my Dec. 11, 2008 LeDandy post.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas: LeDandy Style

A wonderful Christmas for LeDandy and family. First of all, many thanks to the readers who have become "Pince-Nez Enthusiasts" as listed in the left hand column. We appreciate your support. And also thanks to the many readers of the Renaissance who have sent emails and offered their own stories. 2008 was a great year and the Renaissance has taken off. 2009 will be even better.

Here are some photos from LeDandy's Christmas 2008. Below is Jon Dean with our Pug and Shepherd/Chow. There is a plate of salami, cheese and crackers which has the undivided attention of the dogs. A little champagne and some Bing Crosby Christmas music set the mood. Our Christmas booty is on display.

Here I am with my boy Leo. A fine young man and full of life. My fingerpiece was the pince-nez of the day.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Renaissance Needs Your Help

And I'm not talking money. We would never ask you for a donation. But what we do need is a little publicity. The purpose of this blog is to assist those who want to wear pince-nez glasses. In order to help people, they first need to be able to find us in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately our Google ranking is very low for the simple search term "pince nez" by itself (#70 at the time of this writing). Most people use the Google search engine and generally will not scan results past the first thirty listings.

So how can you help? It doesn't take much and the Renaissance will be very grateful. Here are some suggestions:

  • Publish a link - if you have a website, you can post a link to the Renaissance. I've heard this is the most powerful way to boost a Google ranking;
  • Become a Pince-Nez Enthusiast - Let the world know you follow this blog. Please see the appropriate section at the bottom of the left hand column. You can even follow this blog anonymously if you desire.

If I didn't get the valuable advice from my good friend with many years of pince-nez experience, I would never be able to wear these glasses. I'd like others to benefit from the knowledge which is included on this site.

If you have any other suggestions for boosting our Google ranking, please email me. Thanks!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why Does One Wear Pince-Nez?

I always thought it was for style, as that is my sole reason for wearing them. The Renaissance welcomes Charles from Massachusetts into the world of pince-nez. He wrote to me a few months ago and expressed a desire to wear this eyewear. Since that time, he has acquired a few antique mountings and will be wearing pince-nez on a regular basis. His reasons for wearing them are totally different from my perspective.

The following is from Charles' email:

"The moment I first tried one on [pince-nez] I became sold on the entire concept. I have avoided getting reading glasses for several years because I find them so uncomfortable. Not only that, but most of them have a certain design flaw. This is the way glasses tend to ride down your nose and need to be constantly pushed back to their proper location. The only real cure is to get the bent wire frames which "lock" them behind your ears--and there's simply no way I'm wearing something like that. It's like the glasses are strapped onto your face. It's the difference between wearing suspenders or a belt, actually. The pince-nez clip on and that's where they stay. There's no fidgeting around with them. And they're great to clean! That's a real bonus. Pop them off, rub-rub, and they're back on your face in seconds. And, they look awesome. I haven't had too many comments on them yet, but everyone I have shown them to gave very positive opinions."

Thanks for writing Charles and keep in touch.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rimmed Pince-Nez

In past articles I've discussed the rimless fingerpiece and hoop spring variety. These are the most common types of this variety. However, there is a significant number of rimmed fingerpieces and hoop springs. Is this type for you? What are the advantages / disadvantages to this particular style?

As you may remember in a prior post, about two months ago I purchased a hoop spring trial fitting set in very poor condition. I was surprised that most of the pince-nez were the rimmed variety.

As for personal aesthetics, the rimmed pince-nez does not appeal to LeDandy. In my opinion, the rimmed frame detracts from the minimalist appeal. But as with Astigs, I learned that some styles work very well with certain people. Michael, a reader of this blog, looks superb in the Astig. Will the rimmed pince-nez suit your face? Only you can tell. Since many pince-nez can be bought for under $20, you may want to pick one up and see if you like it if you are so motivated.

rimmed pince nezThe young man at left, who is no longer young, is wearing a rimmed hoop spring. The big advantage to this style is that opticians prefer making lenses for a rimmed frame rather than the rimless one. However, be sure that the frames have screws for the lens mount. The cheap mail-order reader frames, as seen in my post referenced above regarding the trial fitting set, do not have screws and the lenses cannot be replaced. Also, it may be possible to change the shape of the lens mount from round to somewhat more oval. You will probably want the services of a professional for this procedure if it can be done.

The zyl (plastic) rimmed pince-nez were quite popular and have a distinct look. Zyl rims are almost always found with the round lens. Last year on Fedora Lounge, a young woman posted a picture of herself wearing this variety. Unfortunately she took the picture down but it was very impressive. If you can wear round lenses, you may want to consider the rimmed zyl fingerpiece. It definitely lends a scholarly air to the wearer.

zyl pince nez fingerpieceIf you are interested in the zyl fingerpiece to wear, you must get the one with screws securing the lens mount. This will allow you to change lenses. The picture below is an excellent example of a quality zyl fingerpiece. Note the screw mount blocks used to secure the zyl rims.

zyl pince nez fingerpieceThe young man below is wearing a complete zyl rimmed fingerpiece. The only hint is the fingerpiece end visible on the inner edge of his right lens. After the mid 1920's pince-nez design tried to copy (without temples of course) the latest style of spectacles. The 1920's saw the enormous popularity of tortoise shell rimmed spectacles with round lenses. [this paragraph and photo taken from my friend's Flickr page]

zyl pince nez fingerpiece

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Guide to Pince-Nez

There is a lot of information in this blog about pince-nez. So much that I recognize the difficulty in applying many of the tips which have been gathered by others through years of experience. Personally, there are a handful of tips which I believe are critical to the wearing of this form of eyewear.

Don't worry about making mistakes along the way. I stumbled and my first pince-nez didn't work out. I was able to take the lenses from that mounting and switch them to a mounting that did work for me.

Without further ado, here is a reader's quick annotated table of contents.

I. Can (and Should) I wear pince-nez?

One must have some prominence to the nose bridge. Furthermore, one must have the desire to wear it. Articles (1/24/08) and (4/9/10) [a must read!]. Don't worry, a properly fitted pince-nez will not fall off one's face with ordinary wear. Article (1/23/08). We strongly encourage you to buy an inexpensive, adustable pince-nez reader so you can understand the nature of this eyewear's style and fit. Article (4/19/09).

II. What are the styles and which one should I wear?

Rimless hoop springs and fingerpieces are the most practical styles to wear. Article (1/21/08). The Oxford style is beautiful but not suitable for wear. Article (3/1/08). The Astig is a far easier fit than the hoop spring or fingerpiece but it looks right on only a certain kind of face. Article (4/23/08) and Article (5/2/10). The flexible guard pince-nez is quite common but not practical for modern wear. Article (5/9/08) Rimmed pince-nez are also an alternative but tend to look old-fashioned. The novice is advised to stay away from zyl-rims (plastic) as only the screw-mount variety can easily be re-lensed. Articles 2/8/08 and 12/6/08. The screw-mount zyl frame is relatively rare.

Learn the correct terminology so there is less confusion when you converse with other pince-nez fans. (Article 12/13/10)

Safety devices such as ear loops or ribbons are unnecessary if you have a properly fit pince-nez. Articles 10/5/08 and 1/10/09.

III. Where Can I Buy Pince-Nez?

Despite the label, not many vintage eyewear stores carry pince-nez. Those who do usually charge an absurd price. Best bet is eBay. Article (7/12/2008). Make sure there is a good return policy for the pince-nez as fit is vital. Article (3/28/09).
Do not believe measurements provided by sellers as there is no known accurate method of calculating the size of pince-nez in regard to fit. Article (7/5/08), Article (1/29/09). With experience, you'll be able to roughly gauge size from pictures. Article (8/21/11)
The authors do not know of any current makers of quality pince-nez eyewear. Only cheap readers and sunglasses of this style are made today. The good news is that antique pince-nez are often found in suitable condition for relensing and wear. Article (6/28/09). There is no need to find modern mountings as the antique ones are far superior in terms of material and construction to anything that can be mass produced today.

IV. Proper fit and adjustment.

A long article but required reading for any pince-nez wearer. Article (11/4/08). Generally speaking, the nose guards should require only a minimal amount of space to open before securing on the nose bridge. Silicone nose pads, which are strongly recommended, will affect fit (see section below on nose pads). Pince-nez should never be worn far down on the nose. Article (6/3/09).

V. Having Lenses Made for Your Pince-Nez.

You cannot wear your pince-nez without having correct lenses installed. Once again, this can be a challenging task and there are some concerns to keep in mind. Article (3/21/09). It is often possible to swap one set of lenses in a pince-nez to another mounting. Article (7/26/08).

VI. Get the small, classic sized lenses for rimless hoop springs and fingerpieces.

Opticians will try to convince you to get large lenses for your pince-nez, similar in size to those for modern spectacles. This is, with very rare exception, a crucial mistake. The traditional small lenses are best for many reasons. Article (9/13/08). Oval lenses of classic dimensions should be used for pince-nez. Article (10/30/10). Of course, get plastic or polycarbonate lenses. Article (11/18/08). Progressive lenses do work with small sizes. Article (10/8/11)

VII. Buy silicone nose pads for comfort and security.

This is a critical point. Most wearers will want to buy this wonderful item as it greatly improves comfort for all day wear and provides enhanced security. Article (2/19/08), Article (2/22/08). Nose pads do narrow the distance between the nose guards so take this factor into consideration regarding the size of your mounting. QTE makes excellent silicone nose pads. Article (5/17/08).

VIII. Are pince-nez rare and how much are they worth?

Even though this style of eyewear usually qualifies as an antique, the majority of pince-nez have a market value of $50 or less. Exceptions do exist but they are quite uncommon. Article (6/11/09).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Glass Lenses: A Bad Idea

I've been meaning to address this subject as it is quite important when having lenses made for your pince-nez. Some people want to be historically accurate when wearing pince-nez. And then there are the purists who insist on wearing glass. This is not a brilliant conclusion on my part as I urge you to stay with plastic (or polycarbonate) lenses. Safety is the highest concern with this issue. Even if you work at a desk job, you can trip on the way to the office cooler (e.g., Gerald Ford). Don't laugh, glass lenses present a real danger.

Rimless pince-nez require a hole drilled in the lens for mounting. A federal law went into effect in 1974 which requires safety glass for eyewear. Safety glass cannot be drilled. Thus, glass lenses cannot be fitted to a rimless mounting.

I read a very interesting thread on OptiBoard addressing the glass lens issue. Check it out. Very entertaining and informative.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cocktails Anyone?

pince-nez molotov
My good friend told me that pince-nez was very popular in the former Soviet Union. He wasn't kidding. I ran across a picture of Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet diplomat under Stalin's reign. He signed the non-aggression pact with the Nazis in 1939 and later had a "cocktail" named after him.

Like Trotsky, Molotov wore the fingerpiece style. A sharp look! I especially like this side view of Molotov as it highlights his pince-nez.

pince nez molotov stalin
According to Wikipedia, Molotov died in 1986 at the ripe old age of ninety-six. That was quite an accomplishment for someone who served under Stalin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today in History.....

pince nez trotsky
Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party in 1927. I read this tidbit on today's Wikipedia home page. I clicked on Trotsky's name and scanned the lengthy article. It is well known that Trotsky was assassinated by a Stalinist agent with an axe. A gruesome way to die. One thing I didn't know was that Trotsky wore the fingerpiece style pince-nez.

pince nez trotsky
Many years ago in college I studied the Russian language for two years. I had dreams of working for the CIA or some similar agency. What an incredible waste of time. I never wanted to visit the country. I should have taken French. Ah, but I digress.

Trotsky had a great taste in eyewear, but poor taste in politics.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Professional Photos

A few weeks ago we had a photo shoot with the photographer who did our wedding. Jon Dean and I brought along our nephews, Will and Marshall, for the trial shoot. For the shoot, we chose the historic Ardenwood Farms here in Fremont. The pics below were selected as they highlight my fingerpiece pince-nez. Without further ado.....

ledandy pince nez fingerpiece
ledandy pince nez

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Guide to Adusting the Fingerpiece Pince-Nez and Note on the Hoop Spring

[This is a guest article written by a good friend. It is long but very informative and written by an expert with many years of pince-nez experience. All readers are encouraged to submit articles for publication on pince-nez as this is a community forum.]

Adjustment of a Fingerpiece Pince-Nez

The introduction of the fingerpiece pince-nez eyeglass around 1903 in the USA and Europe was a giant technical advance in the development of eyeglasses. This new type of eyeglass was called a fingerpiece because of the small lever type tabs or fingerpieces which were located on either side of the bridge. They were part of the ingenious mechanism which connected to a tiny coiled spring on a screw which held a small arm attached to a nose guard. By using just the thumb and forefinger to pick up the pince-nez or eyeglass: one placed it at the proper position on the bridge of the nose. Removing the fingers caused the spring powered nose guards to contract and grab the sides of the wearer’s nose bridge where the pince-nez would, if properly adjusted, stay securely but very comfortably attached. A perfect fit meant that even the most violent head movements would not affect the stability of the pince-nez which would not shift, slip, tilt or wobble.

The main two advantages that the fingerpiece pince-nez had over the earlier hoopspring or C bridge type was the ease in clipping it on or removing it from the bridge of the nose. The fact that the bridge (a saddle bridge) like a spectacle bridge was inflexible meant that the lenses always remained in a fixed or stationary position. This was particularly advantageous if the lens prescription contained any astigmatism correction or if bifocal/trifocal lenses were used.

The saddle bridge fingerpiece eyeglass or pince-nez became, during the 1905 to 1920 period, by far the most popular type of eyewear in North America and much of Europe particularly among younger people age 15 to 35. The rimless fingerpiece was the height of style.

It was only in the very late 1920’s and early 1930’s that various types of different bridge designs appeared in fingerpiece mountings or frames which “copied” the latest styles in spectacles.

It is most interesting that the widespread myths concerning pince-nez which are so widely held today… were and are in reality, completely opposite. The biggest myth of course being the lack of comfort and security.

The proper fitting and adjustment of a fingerpiece pince-nez was a bit more difficult than with other eyegasses and spectacles. Opticians had perhaps as many as 30 different size fingerpiece mountings (for rimless) or frames for rimmed pince-nez. Once the proper size mounting or frame was determined and fitted there would be very slight adjustments made to the nose guard. Even the most tiny adjustment of nose guards could result in supreme comfort and amazing security or a painful feeling and a pince-nez which threatened to dislodge itself from the bridge of the nose with a quick or sudden movement of the head.

Since the skilled opticians who fitted and adjusted a pince-nez to the individuals nose bridge with great success have long ago died or retired. People today who want to wear a fingerpiece pince-nez often have to adjust the nose guards themselves for a perfect fit.

This isn’t "rocket science" but it’s not exactly easy either. If one is careful and follows the advice below, success should be the result. The procedure is similar for a rimmed or rimless fingerpiece.

1: One must start with a frame or mounting which is near the right size. With any pince-nez, smaller is better than larger in regard to frame width or, with a rimless, the distance between the outer edges of the lenses. Too much width means one can more easily dislodge or completely knock the pince-nez off.

2: Distance between nose guards is of course the most important thing. Since it’s the nose guards alone that keep the pince-nez on the bridge of the nose.

3: One needs a pair of small,very thin needle nose type pliers. They have very thin, long tapering blades.

4: Use extreme caution when making any adjustments to the nose guards. Very tiny adjustments done with care are better than a large adjustment. One can always go back and re-adjust. Whether adjustments are to increase the width or decrease the width between nose guards, the same principles apply. Use slow and careful adjustmnets because it is dangerous to overdo the adjustment and find that you have to go back adjust in the opposite direction.

A fingerpiece pince-nez looks extremely delicate. This is not the case if the item is in great condition when you start out. Given the fact that metal has some flexibility, it will take delicate bending up to a point.

5: The proper use of pliers etc. is extremely important. If you took a fingerpiece mechanism apart, you’d notice that the fingerpiece, arm and nose guard are all one piece. The spring and screw make up two additional pieces. Because the fingerpiece arm must rotate or pivot underneath the spring and screw, one must use great care not to disturb this smooth movement by extreme bending of nose guard arm etc.

6: The distance between nose guards is deceptive. When the pince-nez is laying flat on a table or in its case, the nose guards may seem impossibly close together. One might be tempted to think.. I could not get this pince-nez to fit on my nose bridge! You must take the pince-nez and press gently on the fingerpieces to open the guards to their full width to judge overall width.

7: Nose guard width adjustment. One must not equate nose guards on spectacles with those on any type of pince-nez because they serve different purposes. Nose guards on a fingerpiece should grab the sides of the nose bridge in a higher up position than typical spectacle guards. It’s important to adjust nose guard width first before nose guard grip or angle. Again, gentle and gradual use of the pliers. Just a bit of adjustment each time. Clip the pince-nez on each time to gauge progress.

If the angle of the nose guard seems wrong, use extreme care in gently bending the guard arm or guard. Excessive or forceful bending of any parts could result in the part snapping off!

8: Nose guard grip. The nose guards should rest flat so that they cover the flesh on the sides of your nose bridge with the same amount of pressure. They shouldn’t dig in at an odd angle but should rest evenly. Using very gentle minor adjustments with the pliers on each nose guard soyou can get the angle you wish. Generally the top of the nose guard is tilted at an angle closer to the face. This is an individual matter. One can adjust the guards, again with great care, by tilting the top of the guard forward toward the pince-nez bridge. This will make the guards grip the nose bridge closer to the edge which makes the top of the guards more visible and the nose bridge narrower and more prominent which is a great look. This is all dependent on the individual and the design of the pince-nez mounting or frame.

9: Nose pads. Silicone nose boot style nose pads can be extremely effective in achieving maximum comfort and security.

In certain cases, the nose pads may not work as well as the original nose guards. There are many variables and so much depends on the individual’s nose bridge. There are those people who have an absolutely ideal nose bridge on which to attach a pince-nez. Such nose bridges are usually narrow to average in width and have a good deal of depth. Such depth allows for a good deal of flesh for the nose guards to grab onto. If nose guard width seems a bit narrow then the pince-nez could be clipped on a bit further forward on the nose bridge. If guard width seems a bit wide then clipping the pince-nez further back, closer to the face may work out better. Using the nose pads on the guards of course decreases the width between guards.

When applying or removing nose pads, hold the pince-nez by one guard only with one hand. The nose pad has some elasticity and it should be stretched gently before applying it to the nose guard. Most often the wider end of the pad should be pulled over the top of the guard with the other hand. Still holding the pince-nez by just the guard, stretch the pad over the bottom part of the nose guard. If the bottom of the guard seems too close to the frame, it may be better to apply the end of the pad over the bottom of the guard first and then stretch it to fit over the top of the guard. Nose pads should be removed in much the same way.

Some individuals find that the nose pads are better with the wider part over the bottom of the guard. It’s all an individual matter. Adjustments with pliers to nose guards is accomplished easier and more effectively without the nose pads. One should keep in mind the decrease in nose guard width caused by the nose pads.

10: Springs, the all important springs. They are what makes a fingerpiece work but they are extremely fussy litlle objects. They hate to be touched! Test out a fingerpiece by holding it by the outer edge of the frame or lens, then with thumb and forefinger open the levers or fingerpieces all the way. Release your fingers and watch the nose guards close with a snapping sound. The spring tension should be quite strong and the contraction of the spring nose guards should be quick with no hesitation in their movement.

If movement is sluggish or hesitant, try loosening the spring screw slightly until smooth movement in guard contraction is evident. If a spring itself seems to lack the necessary tension, it can be tightened with great care. This is an extremely delicate operation which can result in damage or breakage to the spring or a broken spring end which would, in effect, render the nose guard totally useless.

Tightening a spring should only be done as a last resort. Gently take the straight end of the spring where it touches the inner edge or the frame or with a rimless mounting the little ) shaped thing. Move spring away forward just a tiny bit (not up or down) with the very end of the pliers, allowing the spring to be as close as possible to frame or lens. Pull very gently toward the outer edge of frame. You’ll see spring move a very tiny bit (hardly noticeable) and become tighter. The edge of the spring should be allowed to return to the same position it was in before tightening it.

The guard arm shouldn’t move up and down even if nose guards themselves pivot a bit. Look to see the springs in action. They should not move, especially the end of the spring as it should remain stationary over the inner edge of frame or lens. The end wrapped around the nose guard arm should also do the same.

11: Security and Comfort: Once the fingerpiece pince-nez seems adjusted perfectly one should test the security first by placing one hand over the outer edges of the frame or lenses, and tug or pull gently but with slight firmness. If the pince-nez doesn’t move in any way, it’s securely attached to the nose bridge. This is a very quick but effective test which should be habitual each time you clip the pince-nez on.

One should do the ultimate security test of shaking the head wildly both up and down and side to side. You only need to do this once. If the pince-nez doesn’t move in any way and remains securely attached to your nose bridge and most importantly feels comfortable then you have a perfectly fitted pince-nez.

Caution: always use the fingerpieces when removing the pince-nez. Never pull it off your nose. On the very rare occasion when a perfectly fitted fingerpiece pince-nez moves or tilts, it will not tilt forward away from the face by the top. It will tilt out from the bottom and the top will move closer to the face. The pince-nez may begin to wobble a bit but shouldn’t detach itself and fall. This will give you plenty of time to adjust it with thumb and forefinger.

With proper adjustment and care a fingerpiece pince-nez can last for many years. Successful wearing of a fingerpiece or any type of pince-nez will result in the wearer never wanting to use any other type of eyewear!

A Note on the Hoop Spring or C Bridge Pince-Nez Eyeglass

The hoopspring or C bridge type pince-nez eyeglasses were as popular during the 1888 to 1903 period as the fingerpiece pince-nez was during the 1904 to 1920 era. The hoopspring bridge was referred to as a spring. Its flexible nature, combined with fixed nose guards made it an effective type of eyewear which was easier to adjust than a fingerpiece pince-nez. The hoopspring had three disadvantages.

First, one had to use two hands (in most cases) to clip it on the bridge of the nose. One would grab the outer edges of the lenses with each hand and pull gently to open the bridge/spring. After placing the pince-nez at the proper position and removing the hands, the spring bridge would contract as the nose guards grabbed the sides of ones nose bridge to keep the pince-nez in place.

Second. Because the hoopspring pince-nez had lenses or a frame which sloped when not being worn, it was most important to obtain the proper angle of lenses/frame when the hoop spring pince-nez was attached to the bridge of the nose. Any slope should disappear and the lenses/frame should appear to be aligned perfectly straight. This is crucially important in regard to prescriptions which have an astigmatism component or bifocal/trifocal lenses. The introduction of the fingerpiece pince-nez eliminated this problem. Many times the lenses of a rimless hoopspring pince-nez were drilled a bit higher or lower than the exact center which helped to eliminate most of the slope.

The last disadvantage to the hoopspring was that with constant wear, the spring gradually can lose tension. This is very easy and simple to remedy. Just do the opposite as when clipping the pince-nez on the nose. Just push the lenses or frame close together so that the spring/bridge and nose guards become closer together. Use great care not to bend the lenses or frame at an off angle. Again, as always, do this with small, slow and gradual steps.

While the fingerpiece pince-nez became far more popular and stylish in the first two decades of the last century, the hoopspring still had its confirmed devotees. The slight revival in the late ‘20’s, early ‘30’s of pince-nez popularity (largely among individuals age thirty-five and above) saw the hoopspring type achieving as much of a renaissance as the fingerpiece type pince-nez. It’s interesting home many men in FDR’s cabinet wore a rimless hoopspring pince-nez.

Advantages of the hoopsring type pince-nez.

Appearance. The hoopspring, especially the rimless had a “cleaner” more minimalist look. The high position of the bridge/spring (either a high curved arch or a modified squarish look, gives to the wearer the appearance of having a longer nose and, as the case with most pince-nez, a more prominent nose bridge.

The hoopspring pince-nez is easier to adjust since the nose guards are in fixed position. One can adjust the guards by following the instructions above (in principle) concerning the fingerpiece pince-nez by using the part of the instructions which apply.

The better quality hoopspring pince-nez, when disassembled, could easily have parts replaced (e.g., a new spring, guards or straps). The inferior quality hoopspring have rivets rather than screws and thus couldn’t effectively be taken apart.

If successfully fitted, the choice of either a fingerpiece or a hoopspring pince-nez becomes largely a matter of personal choice.

Interesting Footnote
The terms eyeglasses and spectacles, now interchangeable, had a very precise meaning from the 1860’s to the late 1920’s. Eyeglasses meant pince-nez. Spectacles had temples. Yes, the term pince-nez was occasionally used in that era but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that it was used exclusively. Eyewear was unisex until the late 1930’s.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

LeDandy Gets Married and Pince-Nez Gets Top Billing

... along with the grooms of course! A good friend of mine took this photo yesterday at my wedding to Jon Dean. My in-laws are in the foreground. Don't worry, we had a pro photographer there and there will be loads of pics in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, I'm glad to have an immediate image from our big day. My beloved hoop springs are seen in this shot.

The wedding was a huge success as everything went according to plan. The service was held at a small church in Sunol and the reception followed at a historical house in Fremont. In all, we had about seventy relatives and friends there. It did rain yesterday but luckily it wasn't the huge downpour which occurred later that night.

My pince-nez made a huge hit with Jon Dean's friends and co-workers. I wasn't sure which style I would wear at the wedding, so I brought both my fingerpiece and hoop springs with me. I wore the fingerpiece during the service, then switched to hoop springs. Many conversations revolved around my eyewear and I believe there may even be a convert or two from the event! I am very grateful to my good friend who gave me the pince-nez and provided even more valuable guidance for wearing them. Unfortunately he couldn't make it but his presence was felt.

My friends are no strangers to pince-nez so they focused on my highly touted footwear for the evening: my embroidered bee slippers. My co-workers even pasted little bee emblems onto their own shoes! I was really touched.

Today it is time to relax and enjoy my first day of married life.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Night on the Town: Pince-Nez Gets Noticed!

Last night I had a traditional bachelor party for my wedding next week. A friend of mine took me out for a wild night on the town. It was a bachelor party with a straight theme: a trip to a gentleman's club and doing some guy things (e.g., cards, darts, drinking). There were four of us last evening including my neighbor, his friend (Bill) and his friend's girlfriend (Amy).

We started out with some drinks at my neighbor's house. After a couple of drinks, Bill looked at me and said "Your glasses don't have any arms. I can fix that for you." He was even more astonished when I told him that these glasses don't have arms but grip the nose.

Later we went to a "gentleman's club" in San Jose called the Brass Rail. They don't have topless bars down there so the girls were attired in very skimpy bikinis. Not very erotic but fun for a bachelor party. While talking to a young stripper, she noticed my hoop springs. "Those glasses don't hang on your ears!" she exclaimed. Nearly naked women and she was shocked by my pince-nez. Of course everyone had to see how my glasses stayed on my nose.

I don't think that I converted anyone to pince-nez but I did spread an awareness.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Bad eBay Purchase

pince nez hoop spring trial fitting set
A few weeks ago I was very excited a purchase I made on eBay. I "won" a a trial fitting set of twelve hoop spring pince-nez in a a beat up case. The price was $43.74 and I was ecstatic. Twelve hoop springs for $55 which included the shipping price? That was less than $5 a hoop spring. Plus I received the case. There were three pictures and they gave a flattering image of the set (photos in this post are mine). Clearly not all the hoop springs were original to the set but at this price it didn't matter.

pince nez hoop spring trial fitting set
A week after the auction I received the set. Pure crap! I don't recall ever being so disappointed with a purchase. Ten of the twelve hoop springs were a very cheap rimmed variety with significant rust. I never dealt with rimmed lenses on a pince-nez. According to my friend, these hoop springs were the cheap mail-order issue of the day. There were two other hoop springs which had minimal value. One of them fit me but it was nothing special. Below are photos of two hoop springs which were typical of the quality of the others.

pince nez hoop spring trial fitting set
pince nez hoop spring trial fitting set
I contacted the seller and asked for a refund. I mailed the set back and received a refund of the purchase but not shipping. If the set would have been decent, I would have been set with hoop springs for life! Nevertheless, I'm glad that I tried.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

LeDandy's Progress Report

I have been wearing pince-nez on a full-time basis for the past three months. It is time to give a progress report on what it is like wearing them. Did they fall off? Does anyone notice them? Are they comfortable?

I'm thrilled to give great answers to these questions.

First of all, I alternate between a fingerpiece and hoop spring with daily wear. They are both equally comfortable and I often forget that I have them on. This is in stark contrast to my first fingerpiece which was too tight and caused discomfort after two hours of wear. Both of my current pince-nez leave no redness after wear and cause no irritation. I do wear silicone nose pads on both pair.

Furthermore, neither pair has fallen off. There were not even any "close calls" where they were in danger of falling off my nose. A touch of super glue applied to the nose guarantees security. Just kidding! The nose pads really do help with a secure fit on the nose.

A few times each week I receive comments in public. All positive of course. Last week I was in a Toys R Us buying a gift for my nephew. A woman behind me in line asked how the glasses stayed on my face. I had my hoop springs on at the time and showed her how they work. She was delighted. Interestingly, most of those who talk with me about pince-nez are Asian women. Several people at work notice them as well and inquire as to how they work without bows. Then of course there are many others who do not say anything due to shyness.

Yes, it has been a good three months wearing pince-nez and I look forward to a lifetime of wearing these wonderful glasses.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Ear Loop

pince nez ear loop earloop security
I've been writing this blog for almost a year and this is my first post on the ear loop. Usually the ear loop makes a strong impression on someone when encountering pince-nez for the first time. During the pince-nez heyday in the period 1885-1919, ear loops and other security devices such as the ribbon or chain were used by some wearers. The glass lenses of this period were extremely fragile, unlike the polycarbonate lenses of today. One fall and they were certainly guaranteed to shatter.

For contemporary wear, I am not a fan of the ear loop or any other security device. The beauty of the pince-nez is in its simplicity. Aesthetically, the ear loop severely impairs the look. It ruins the lines and creates the presumption that the eyewear is not stable. I wouldn't even consider wearing an ear loop.

Of course this is the author's opinion. These days one has the benefit of silicone nose pads which ensure a secure fit on the nose. Apart from historical reenactment, there is no need to wear such devices.

Please write in with your opinion on the subject. The comment section is important!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

2008 Understatement of the Year

I watched about twenty minutes of the presidential debate last night. While discussing the proposed Wall Street bailout package, Barack Obama said that $700 billion is a lot of money. Clearly this is the supreme understatement of the year. For the purposes of this blog, however, I direct your attention to another statement.

I read an interesting ad for a pince-nez on eBay. The text is as follows:

"The Pince Nez spectacles were quite the prominent optical style in the 1890’s to the 1930’s when they fell from favor. They were quite the in-thing 40 plus years ago when these vintage spectacles enjoyed a renaissance in the 1960s and 1970s. The word is that they are coming back in style again."[emphasis added]

Yes, they are coming back in style! I know that I am biased since the purpose of this blog is to promote pince-nez. Nevertheless, I receive many emails and occasionally photos from readers who wear pince-nez on a daily basis. This morning I received an inquiry from a reader who has a strong desire to wear this eyewear. Yes, there is a small yet dedicated and growing group of people who will keep pince-nez alive.

Isn't the focus on eyewear a bit silly?

Absolutely not. Look at the intense focus on fashion and appearance. It is a tremendous industry and rightfully so. Of all the elements of one's wardrobe, I strongly believe that eyewear is most important. I write another blog, LeDandy (of Northern California) which discusses men's fashion.* Early last year, I wrote that if I could splurge on only one fashion item it would be eyewear.

Think about it. People notice your face more than anything else. Beautiful eyewear enhances one's appearance while ugly or inappropriate eyewear will detract from one's looks. Yet the average person spends about a half hour selecting frames at a high volume eyewear store like LensCrafters. He/she will wear these glasses daily for years. It doesn't make sense. Even if you go with conventional eyeglasses, spend some quality time selecting your frames. Visit several stores and try on dozens of pairs if necessary.

Pince-nez isn't for everyone. Physically, you must have some prominence to the nose bridge. The good news is that many people meet this requirement. Mentally, you must have a strong, independent spirit. It is a different look and you will be noticed. I believe, for myself, that the demands are well worth the final result. It is a classic, timeless look which enhances one's appearance through minimalism.

Then again, there are the mainstream designer alternatives which do not believe in the minimalist approach. In fact, often their focus seems to be on the advertising their brand name instead of assisting the wearer! Eyewear shopping is a real challenge.

*Shameless self promotion!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gentleman Farmer

Not quite. But LeDandy does have a bountiful garden in his backyard. Here I am in hoop springs while holding a massive zucchini measuring eighteen inches. Jon Dean is the gardener in the family and we have a nice variety of vegetables and fruit. It is a great feeling to go outside and pull apples and oranges off the trees. If only we had a money tree!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

eBay Descriptions

I'm fairly well set with my pince-nez collection but every few days I peruse the eBay listings for interesting items. You never know when you'll stumble across a unique item or great buy. Now that I've acquired some expertise with pince-nez, I pay careful attention to the seller's descriptions of the eyewear. I am not looking down on these people. A year ago, my knowledge was very limited in this esoteric field. I didn't know an Oxford from a hoop spring.

Many sellers aren't even aware of the term pince-nez. This isn't a surprise to me as many antique dealers are not familiar with this eyewear. Here in Fremont, California we have a row of antique dealers in the Niles District. At several stores I asked the owners if they had any pince-nez in stock. Not one dealer knew what I meant! It is no surprise that you'll often find pince-nez not properly labeled as such on eBay.

Earlier this week I ran across an eBay listing which perpetuates a myth harmful to the purpose of this blog. In relevant part it reads "Usually there was a chain that served to hook around the ear and prevent the spectacles from crashing to the floor when they inevitably fell off."* I take offense by the word inevitably. There is nothing inevitable about pince-nez falling off one's face, provided they are a proper fit. Let me assure you that you do not need to wear an ear loop (chain) if you want to wear pince-nez.

I've seen many descriptions wherein the seller describes the pince-nez as sized for a child or lady. These are usually incorrect. These sellers do not realize that pince-nez are considerably smaller in size than spectacles.

Also, I've noticed many sellers copying text from Wikipedia and some other well-known eyewear sites. Since the information on pince-nez is very limited, it is easy to attribute the source.

Even if you are just browsing, it is a lot of fun to look at eBay listings.
*Technically speaking, pince-nez are eyeglasses and not spectacles.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lenses: Lets Get Small

pince-nez lens size comparisonI know that I'm showing my age by reference to this old Steve Martin album / comedy routine. I even forgot the essence of the joke. Nevertheless, it is a great title for today's post.

I am very grateful to my pince-nez friend who has given me tremendous guidance on my path to wearing this great eyewear. I've learned many valuable lessons and today I'll touch on one not previously mentioned. Lenses for pince-nez should be smaller in size than lenses made for contemporary eyewear. I've had lenses made at two optical stores and both advised making larger lenses for my pince-nez. Though the stores were well-intentioned, I'm glad that I listened to my friend and stuck with the dimensions of the classical pince-nez lenses.

I can think of two reasons for the smaller than typical lenses. First, a pince-nez sits closer to the face. You do not need, nor want, a larger lens. I'm currently wearing lenses with the same dimensions as the pince-nez lens pictured here. My peripheral vision is fine with them. Second, large lenses are more difficult to wear on a pince-nez mounting. The balance, by nature, is more delicate with a larger lens as any shift would be more likely and noticeable.

The lenses I wear are one and a half inches wide and one and three-sixteenths inches tall.

Remember to get the high index lenses or something similar so your lenses will be as thin as possible.

pince-nez lens size dimension

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Myth: Asians Cannot Wear Pince-Nez

fingerpiece pince-nez Asian
Edward from Singapore dispels this myth in stunning fashion. Here he is at a wedding wearing a fingerpiece pince-nez and bow tie. A classic look which will never go out of style. You'll notice that Edward is wearing nose pads which he received through the Renaissance's Outreach Program.

One must have some prominence of the nose bridge in order to wear pince-nez. Unfortunately many Asians, as well as people of other races, are unable to wear this unique style of eyewear due to this physical requirement. I'm glad that Edward wasn't discouraged as his fingerpiece looks great on him and definitely sets him apart in terms of style. One's suitability for pince-nez wear must be judged on an individual basis.

fingerpiece pince-nez Asian

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Beloved Fingerpiece

pince nez fingerpiece LeDandy
As promised, here are pics of my new fingerpiece mounting. Originally, these lenses were made for a different mounting back in March, 2008. The optical store I used in the Castro (EyeGotcha) did a nice job with the lenses but did not provide proper follow-up service after the sale. My disappointment with the store is well documented in this blog.

All was not lost as I decided to mount the lenses in a different fingerpiece. Much to my delight, I found out the pince-nez lenses almost always have the same offset distance for the hole mount. I wrote about this lens swap in a July post.

This fingerpiece is very comfortable and a pleasure to wear. It has a pivot nose guard which allows for a precise fit without complicated adjustment.

It is a great pleasure to have two styles of pince-nez that I can wear all day. Yes, it did take some time to get them right but it was well worth the effort.

pince nez fingerpiece LeDandy

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Classic Fingerpiece: A Modern Example

A few weeks ago I received a reader's photo from Stephen in Louisiana. He is pictured here in his prescription fingerpiece. It looks like a photo straight from the pages of Esquire or Men's Vogue. Definitely a winning, modern and confident look. Our best wishes to him given the recent turmoil caused by Hurricane Gustav.

Stephen acquired his fingerpiece on eBay and had a friendly, local optician put in lenses for him. As with my experience, it took a few tries for the optician to satisfactorily complete Stephen's pince-nez. Patience is a necessity for these eyeglasses.

I sent out some nose pads to Stephen as part of the Renaissance's Reader Outreach Program. About five months ago I put up a post offering free nose pads to readers who send in their photos. It was a successful project and several readers provided photo. Thanks to a generous grant from myself (of about $15), the Renaissance is continuing its nose pad giveaway.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Lot of (Good) News

pince nez hoopspring hoop spring ledandy
It is great to be back. Lots of good news to share. As you can see, I have fulfilled my dream of wearing hoop springs. They make a wonderful fit for me. In fact, I now have two pince-nez that I wear. Not at the same time though. I also received my fingerpiece back from VintageIwear in Kentucky. They swapped lenses from my old fingerpiece to a different mounting. They did a good job at a very reasonable price of $20.

I am pleased to announce that I wearing pince-nez on a full-time basis these days.

Let me talk about the hoop springs today. I'll cover the fingerpiece in another post. It was quite a difficult search to find a decent optician to make lenses for a pince-nez. Actually, having someone make the lenses was no problem. Finding an optician who would also work with me after the sale was an entirely different matter. So I went about calling different stores and settled on Shop Frames Optical, an independent store here in Fremont. I spoke with Ray, the owner, over the phone and he was the only one who seemed interested in a special order such as pince-nez. [update: unfortunately I believe they are closed now]

A week after my order, my hoop springs were ready for pick up. I was excited about picking them up. Bad news. One lens tilted in an awkward direction. Back to the lab for a correction. My worries were misplaced as a few days later they came back in fine shape. I can virtually guarantee you that any pince-nez will not be right the first time. Expect an adjustment or two at least with any order. Like I said, it is important to find an optician who will work with you after the sale. Unless you are in the optical trade yourself, you need someone who is skilled with adjustments for eyewear.

The comfort is great. I wear them all day without any discomfort and they stay in place just fine. It is as secure as a fingerpiece.

So do I have a preference for hoop spring or fingerpiece? I do have a slight preference for hoop spring based purely on aesthetics. The hoop spring is "old school." However, the fingerpiece is a modern look and timeless in terms of its beauty. As my friend from the East Coast told me, a true pince-nez enthusiast should have both styles.

hoop spring hoopspring pince nez

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Off For the Month of August

I need to tend to matters around the house and possibly get some relaxation. I will answer emails and I assure you of my return on Sept. 1.

Friday, August 1, 2008

FDR in Hoop Springs

FDR hoop spring hoopspringI found this photo on the FDR online library. An excellent photo of FDR wearing a flat bridge hoop spring. He isn't wearing a bow tie, but it is a great close up of his fine choice in eyewear. Even after seventy years, FDR still looks very stylish.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Swap

This swap may not make the history books as did the exchange of Francis Gary Powers for Col. Rudolf Abel back in the early 60s.* However this swap is very important to me. Remember the fingerpiece I had fitted with prescription lenses? The opticians I used in SF (EyeGotcha) proved a huge disappointment as they did not work with me for a proper adjustment. My own efforts did not prove successful as I learned that adjusting a fingerpiece requires a skill which is beyond me at this time.

The good news is that lenses, for the most part, are interchangeable on pince-nez as the lens hole is usually a uniform distance for the strap. My friend sent me a great selection of fingerpieces and I chose one that has a pivot nose guard. Very comfortable and it should work out fine.

Why not do it myself? I tried. The lenses on my current fingerpiece are secured very tightly. I used my screwdriver in an attempt to remove them. A big mistake! The screwdriver slipped and made a tiny nick on the lens. Lesson learned. Also, you'll notice the lens guard is straight on my new mounting. It will take some expertise to bend them for my oval lenses.

I still haven't found a decent optician here in the Bay Area. Yes, one of the great metropolitan areas in the U.S. and it is very difficult to find someone good. I found an optician online and sent off my fingerpiece and new mounting earlier in the week. I'll wait for the results before posting their name.

As the English soccer song goes, "this time we'll get it right!"
*Powers was the pilot shot down in the U-2 incident.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pince-Nez on a Wedding Cake?

pince nez cake topper wedding
Yes, LeDandy and Jon Dean received their custom-made wedding cake toppers this week. They are made of clay and each one is about three inches tall. Jon Dean ordered them and explicitly requested that my topper wear a pince-nez. Narri, the artist on Etsy who created these gems, assumed that I will be wearing a hoop spring at my wedding. She may be right, as I'm looking forward to prescription lenses for the mounting shown on my last post. For the small price of $20, these sure beat the generic bride and groom figurines.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hoop Dreams

pince nez hoop spring hoopspring

I remember some movie about Indiana basketball with Gene Hackman a long time ago. Well, the title also applies to my recent fascination and love with hoop springs. Most of the pince-nez you see on eBay and other sites are the fingerpiece variety (springs in the nose guards). Hoop springs predate the fingerpiece and they have a noble history. Woodrow Wilson and FDR wore hoop springs as did many members of their administrations.

The hoop spring has many amazing properties. First and foremost is the simplicity of the design. Unlike a fingerpiece, there are very few parts and someone with limited skill (such as LeDandy) can completely disassemble and put back together a hoop sping in a few minutes. The hoop spring featured below shows the parts. Starting at 12 o'clock and going counterclockwise, you have the bridge, screw, strap and nose guard.

parts hoop spring pince nez hoopspring
Second, another interesting property is that many hoop springs have interchangeable parts. It is easy to swap out parts as the dimensions seem to be quite uniform. Are the nose guards uncomfortable? It is easy to swap out this part while still keeping the rest of the hoop spring.

Finally, the design itself is flattering to the appearance for most people. The high hoop on this hoop spring elongate the nose in an appealing way.

One useful tip if you do acquire an antique hoop spring. If the screws are not movable, soak the mounting in WD-40 overnight. You should have no problem the following day removing the screws. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where Can One Buy Wearable Pince-Nez?

I wish I knew. Please help out the Renaissance if you can by adding your comments if you have a good lead on a source of wearable pince-nez available for purchase. I use the term wearable since collectible pince-nez are easier to find and fit is not a consideration. I do emphasize the need of a good, liberal return policy when purchasing a wearable pince-nez over the internet due to fitting concerns.

In past columns I mentioned several options for purchasing pince-nez. eBay, vintage eyewear dealers (online and brick & mortar stores), and flea markets. I've contacted many sellers and as of this time I have not yet found a dealer or source that I can recommend.

eBay. I haven't had much success on eBay in finding a wearable pince-nez. One seller, Treasures in Time99, has the most visible presence as a seller on eBay. However, their return policy is restricted to "gross misrepresentation" and not fit. They usually list a size in millimeters but this can be misleading as these measurements are unreliable (see last post). There is no definitive way to gauge the fit of a fingerpiece or hoop spring from one size measurement. I would never buy from them.

Also, a fingerpiece is a complicated mechanism. I purchased one beautiful fingerpiece on eBay that looked very promising. Unfortunately the spring on one nose guard was significantly weaker than the right side. This made the pince-nez unwearable.

All my other pince-nez purchases on eBay resulted in an unsatisfying fit. The cost of shipping back to the seller in each case would have been roughly the purchase price so I kept them. Nonetheless, eBay is still probably the best avenue to find pince-nez. Please see the Renaissance posts with eBay buying tips, Part I and Part II.

Online Vintage Eyewear Dealers. A huge disappointment. I'm sure you've run across Eyeglasses Wearhouse if you have done even a basic Google search. They are highly ranked on Google and they have a very nice website. Unfortunately their prices are expensive and you have to email them for prices on a specific item. Even if you do find an item, their return policy is restricted to three days. This is inadequate for a pince-nez purchase. A week would be necessary to gauge fit.

I contacted two other vintage online eyewear dealers: Fabulous Fanny's in New York and Allyn Scura in Northern California. Both websites have only a few pince-nez listed but say they have a much more extensive stock of eyewear. A month ago I spoke twice with the owner of Fanny's and he said that he would send me a listing of hoop springs for sale. No response from Fanny's. Allyn Scura did send me scans of their pince-nez for sale. A poor selection and not even worth considering.

Brick & Mortar Vintage Eyewear. I've only been to one store in San Francisco that has pince-nez. The Spectacle Shoppe in Union Square. I had a very rude salesperson who turned away from me to stock a cabinet while I was still asking questions! Furthermore, their pince-nez mountings started at $300. This is an outrageous starting price.

Flea Markets. Personally I haven't had any luck at flea markets here in Northern California. The ones near me have expensive and low quality merchandise. Not a desirable combination. However, I've heard that flea markets in other areas are good. A reader from New York mentioned considerable success finding pince-nez. If you are in London, a reader informed me that the antique market day on Portobello Road is very good.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

How Does One Measure a Pince-Nez?

hoop spring hoopspring pince nez
If you've been looking at pince-nez for some time, you've run across the Eyeglasses Wearhouse website. They are highly ranked on Google and they have a sizable collection of pince-nez for sale. Prices are not listed so you have to email them. I found their prices to be on the high side but not outrageous.

One thing of notable interest is that they have sizes listed for their pince-nez in terms of millimeters. Then I started to feel like an idiot. I don't understand how one can measure the size of a hoop spring.

I wrote to Eyeglasses Wearhouse on how they measure a hoop spring. I received the following response. "Spread the spring by placing it over one of your fingers. When the lenses are parrell [sic], measure the nose pad width. This width can be decreased or increased slightly by adjusting the shape of the spring."

This is nonsense. How can one reliably measure the distance between nose pads as these are three dimensional objects covering a very small space? Furthermore, each pince-nez will sit differently on a wearer's nose. I discussed this subject with my friend who has many years experience with pince-nez and he agrees with me. There is no consistent and reliable method of measuring pince-nez for fit.

The same principle holds true for fingerpieces as well. The only part that can honestly be measured is the bridge itself. But since the fit is in the nose guards, the bridge measurement alone cannot assure a good fit.

When you see a dealer list a size for a pince-nez, be skeptical. Regardless of the purported size, the mounting may not fit you. This is the reason I insist on a return policy when buying pince-nez.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cleaning Your Pince-Nez Mounting

A week ago I received a hoop spring which I purchased on eBay. Despite its first impression, this mounting is actually in good shape. However, it is in need of a thorough cleaning as a lot of grime has accumulated on it over the years. I've never cleaned a mounting so I asked my knowledgeable friend for info. The mounting in question is gold-filled like most from the pince-nez heyday period.

My friend recommends an all-purpose, liquid jewelry cleaner.* This is the type that comes in a small plastic jar of about four ounces or so. If you have only the mounting, you can put it in the jar for about ten minutes or according to the instructions for the cleaner. You may find a tiny brush in the jar which comes with the cleaner. You will be better off using a medium hard toothbrush.

A pince-nez with lenses requires a little more effort but it is still quite easy. Dip a toothbrush in the cleaning fluid and then scrub the mounting. Re-wet the toothbrush often. Don't be afraid of scrubbing the mounting since it is quite sturdy. Do be careful with the lenses as it is possible to scratch plastic lenses with the toothbrush. The nose guards typically require the most attention in terms of cleaning.

For stubborn stains or oxidation you can dip a small piece of # 0000 steel wool pad in the cleaning liquid and then use the pad.

After you have cleaned your pince-nez, give it a brief polishing with a soft cloth. You can then rinse it with liquid dish soap and warm, running water. Dry it off and replace the nose pads. Congratulations!
*Some mountings are made of brass. Use a brass cleaner for this metal if standard jewelry cleaner is not effective.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Will I Ever Learn? (another eBay story)

In past posts I wrote about my disappointment with pince-nez on eBay for the purpose of actual wear. I have to distinguish the intended purpose for my buying on eBay. Collectible or actual wear? I did buy one fantastic trial fitting set several months ago which is a great collectible. However for actual wear, pince-nez on eBay has been a disappointment after several purchases.

This outcome shouldn't be surprising as pince-nez, by nature, is very temperamental regarding fit. After all, a trial fitting consisted of a dozen mountings varying greatly in size and dimensions. The only way to truly determine fit was the physical act of trying it on. Add in some possible, undisclosed condition problems and eBay looks less promising for a wearable pince-nez.

So two weeks ago I purchased another pince-nez on eBay. A pair of white, octagonal gold filled specs accompanied the pince-nez and the purchase price was $5. I couldn't pass it up even though I didn't have time to ask for close-ups of the glasses. I ran across the listing with hours to go. The hoop spring looked quite attractive and I'm in the market for a wearable one.

A mild disappointment. The fit is just a little too snug with nose pads, and this mounting cannot be worn without one. The tortoiseshell back on the left guard is gone. With nose pads, it wouldn't make a difference but these hoop springs have seen a lot of wear. The white specs has some corrosion issues on the temples.

There was a bright side to the purchase. I did get a pretty nifty aluminum American Optical case in good condition. I found the AO symbol on the back of the case.

There is a solution in the works for those looking to buy a wearable pince-nez. In the near future the Renaissance will have a buy and sell board. Once again, the Renaissance takes a proactive stance!


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