Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Oxford Style

Oxford pince nezFor being a simple nose piece mounting, pince-nez runs across a wide array of styles. In one of the first posts, I discussed the two major groupings of pince-nez: hoop spring and fingerpiece. Hoop spring fits the nose with tension provided by the bridge, whereas the fingerpiece's tension resides in the nose guards. The Oxford style can be seen as a subset of the hoop spring as the tension for fit comes from the bridge.

So what distinguishes an Oxford from a traditional hoopspring? The Oxford's nose guards are separate from the bridge. The nose guards on a hoop spring are part of the bridge itself. This is the key difference in terms of function and design.

Oxfords make a great collectible and are often quite ornate. However, they are usually among the least favorite designs to wear. I don't have first-hand experience with them but they look heavy and are far from the desirable, minimalist look of the fingerpiece and hoop spring. You will run across this style quite a bit when you browse for pince-nez, either on eBay or in antiuqe stores. You will find that rimless Oxfords are quite scarce.

For some reason I picture this style on an eccentric, older woman. In this context, I'd say the Oxford would look great.

So what are the styles of Oxfords? Three basic types: 1) non-folding, 2) folding and 3) z-fold.

1) Non-folding - Perhaps the most attractive of the Oxford style due its faithfulness to the minimalist look. A benefit to this design is that the lens shape can be changed.

Oxford pince-nez

2) Folding - A more expensive variety of the Oxford and popular from 1917 to the early 1940s, mostly with older people. These Oxfords open via a button on the handle. The photo at the top of this post is of the folding variety Oxford. The photo below shows how this style appears when closed.

The folding Oxford is most often found with a chain or cord since these eyeglasses were mainly used for reading. Some women wore a brooch that had a retractable chain for their Oxfords.

3) Z-fold - This variety of Oxford is less expensive than the regular fold and it is quite common. A benefit of this style is that you can place nose pads on the nose guards which you cannot do with the regular fold. The reason is quite obvious.

Add an Oxford pince-nez to your collection. It is an interesting item and, at the very least, a great decoration for the house. eBay prices for Oxfords are very reasonable in the $10 to $20 range.


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