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.

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