Saturday, January 31, 2009

Judgment from Nuremburg, Part II


The Renaissance recently connected with Dr. David Fleishman of AntiqueSpectacles.com. If you have not seen this website, I strongly encourage you to check it out. There is a great deal of history and information on eyewear, including a nice section on pince-nez. The site is remarkable for its imagery and scope. As pince-nez enthusiasts, it is important to have a basic knowledge of eyewear history. AntiqueSpectacles.com makes the process informative and fun. I especially like the section entitled Eyeglasses Through the Ages, a great primer on history.

The need for understanding eyewear history was clearly demonstrated back about a month ago in a post when I failed to identify a set of Nuremburg spectacles on eBay (shown below). The seller mistakenly labeled these eyeglasses as pince-nez from the early 20th century. In fact these glasses date to about 1720 and are a remarkable specimen (a "facett glaser" according to an expert collector). Pince-nez did not come into existence until about 1840 in France.

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Dr. Fleishman provided some interesting information on Nuremburg spectacles. The name refers to the first mass produced eyeglasses with origins in the very late 15th century. These eyeglasses were made in German cities centered mostly around Nuremburg, but including also Regensburg and Furth. Nice examples are indeed rare and are desired by knowledgeable collectors, since it is estimated that only about four hundred survive to this day. Of those only about one in ten has a maker's name along the edge, making them particularly scarce. Few examples currently exist in American collections.

In another post of a month ago I also referenced the Nuremburg spectacles shown below from a 2007 Christie's auction which sold for $1,660. I described these eyeglasses as shoddy. Once again, LeDandy was incorrect. This set had the maker's name, Georg Jacob Bauer, along the edge of the copper wire. Therefore, these spectacles are very rare and clearly worth the auction price.



At least one fact came out of this experience. LeDandy was clearly not meant to be an antique appraiser! The Renaissance thanks Dr. Fleishman for his information on Nuremburg spectacles.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More On Pince-Nez Fit and Measurement


On my January 17, 2009 post I wrote about a fitting set which I bought on eBay. Fitting sets were used to determine the proper size of a particular style on a customer. The sets usually contained a dozen pince-nez and there was an accompanying chart describing the various measurements of each mounting using three different positions. [click on it for close-up]

pince nez fitting setHere is a close-up discussing the different kinds of measurements. It is very interesting.

pince nez fitting set
I wrote in previous posts that there is no method for properly measuring a pince-nez for fit. You must try on a pince-nez to determine a proper fit.

So you may be saying "LeDandy, you schmuck, a fitting set contains measurements so there is a way to measure pince-nez." The proof, obviously, is in the cardboard insert.

I still believe in my prior statement. There is no way to properly measure a pince-nez for fit. The key phrase is "for fit." Two major points stand out to me in regard to the cardboard insert for fitting sets.

First, the measurements on the insert apply to the one particular style of mounting in the set. Two fingerpieces, each with the same measurements from two different styles, will probably not fit in the same manner. It is roughly analogous to a pair of shoes. Shoes with the same measurements in length and width may not fit in the same way, or at all, if the styles are different. The same principle applies to pince-nez. In fact, pince-nez requires greater precision as there is less tolerance for an imperfect fit.

Secondly, the measurements taken for the fitting set do not include any listing of nose guard distances. The nose guards must be comfortable for a good fit. Otherwise, as I know from personal experience, you cannot wear them. It can even be painful.

You can measure distances at different positions between nose guards. Even if you go this route, you can still not be assured of a proper fit. There is not one predominant style of nose guard. Nose guards of different styles with the same measurements will probably feel different on your nose bridge. Also, you need to consider the spring tension as for fit.

There is only one known way to determine a proper fit. You must try them on. Fitting sets worked because all of the pince-nez were the same bridge style with the same type of nose guard and springs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Understanding Our Heritage


The primary purpose of this website is to promote the modern day wear of pince-nez. Unlike other websites which focus on pince-nez as a collectible, we show you how it is practical and desirable to wear them. Recently I've received questions from readers asking historical questions. We do have a basic history presented in many of the posts, courtesy of my friend who is well-versed in pince-nez. This information provides a solid overview and we also have many interesting pieces of trivia. Nevertheless, I intend on pursuing more knowledge for my own sake as well as the benefit of this column.

The internet is a wonderful way to gain knowledge on virtually all topics. The key word here is "virtually." Pince-nez, of course, is an exception to this rule. I'm sure you have googled this subject and have not found much in the way of practical information.

I found a good bibliography on AntiqueSpectacles.com which provides a good starting point for eyewear research. I expect many of the books listed on their site have a section for pince-nez as well as spectacles. I have not found a book devoted entirely to pince-nez. Yesterday I checked the availability of some of these books on Amazon. I found Eyewear: Gli Occhiali by Franca Acerenza, pictured, at left on Amazon for $2 (plus $4 shipping) and ordered it. The nice thing about Amazon is that they have reader reviews which can be quite helpful.

If you have you have read or have knowledge of any books or any sources of information on pince-nez, please post a comment. After all, we are here to help each other.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My New Fitting Set


pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical"The stuff that dreams are made of." I remember this quote from "The Maltese Falcon," one of my favorite films with Humphrey Bogart. If you asked me about my dreams when I was seventeen, I guarantee you my response would be very different! But now I'm settled down and appreciate the finer things in life. As you may recall, I bought a fitting set a few weeks ago on eBay. This set is in superb condition and has ten of the twelve original fingerpieces.

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american opticalAre these sets rare? I'm not sure. I will say they are quite scarce and appear on eBay at times. I'm glad to have a nearly complete set and will definitely leave this set to a museum one day. It really is a trip back in time when the customer received individual attention from an optician. These days you stand in line at a big chain store and hope you run into a competent salesperson.

Were these fitting sets important? Anyone who has bought the fingerpiece style understands how difficult it can be to achieve the right fit with this style of pince-nez. A good fit is not as easy as it looks and can be very frustrating to the novice. In fact, I almost gave up at one point (glad I didn't!).

The cardboard insert is in exceptional condition and has virtually no toning from age. I believe this condition is mostly due to the felt insert in the case.

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical
Here is the full view of the insert.

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american opticalHere are close-ups of the text. It gives the reader an appreciation for the detail involved with achieving the proper fit for the customer. Note the significance of each digit in the model number.

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical
pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical
Of course the real charm of the set lies in the pince-nez itself. This particular set has the sanitary nose guard style, that is an all metal nose guard. The pictures speak for themselves.


pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical

pince nez fitting set fits-u fingerpiece american optical

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gentleman From the Old School



It must have been a couple glasses of wine, but this photo from of one of our readers brought that phrase to mind. Robert from Michigan is wearing a new, old stock Zyl fingerpiece from Shur-On. He is quite handy as a craftsman and made all of the adjustments necessary to get a good fit. As you can tell, he is also a snappy dresser. Thanks for sending in your photo, Robert.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hoop Springs at My Wedding


On November 1 of last year, LeDandy finally took the plunge into marriage with Jon Dean. Our timing was superb as Proposition 8 on the California ballot passed on November 4th which disallowed gay marriage. I'm not going to discuss politics but instead focus on my hoop springs worn at the wedding. I initially wore a fingerpiece, then decided to switch to hoop springs as they are my favorite.













Oh yes, there was someone else at the wedding besides LeDandy. His spouse! Here I am with Jon Dean after the service, walking down the aisle. It was a joyous day. [note LeDandy's velvet bee slippers!]


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Judgment from Nuremburg


The Renaissance has some very informed readers and we are grateful for their input. Reader Nick commented on our last post regarding a seemingly absurd amount that someone paid for a very crude pince-nez.

Nick said that this style of eyewear is called "Nuremburg spectacles" and can be centuries old. LeDandy did a quick internet search and Nick is right on point with this call. I went to antiquespectacles.com and a similar example is in their glossary.

As for value, LeDandy did another online search and found a wide range of realized auction prices for Nuremburg spectacles. They are quite valuable. The lowest price was $170 and the highest realized price that I found was $1,660 at a Christie's auction. The high end price was for a rather shoddy looking item pictured below.


If the glasses on the eBay auction are genuine Nuremburg spectacles, then someone probably made a great investment.

Are the glasses on the eBay auction authentic? I don't know. It is one thing to buy from Christie's and another from an eBay seller who provided an inaccurate three line description of the glasses. The eBay seller did not represent these glasses as genuine Nuremburg spectacles.

Many thanks to Nick for providing such valuable input!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Best and Worst of eBay Deals


2009 is off to a great start for LeDandy. My good friend tipped me off to a wonderful pince-nez fitting set on eBay which ended today. Yours truly acquired it for $88. The set is shown in great condition and there are ten of the original twelve fingerpieces in the set. Most sets usually have fewer pieces. The photos shown are taken from the eBay listing. When the set arrives, I'll take plenty of my own photos.

pince nez fitting set salesman case
pince nez fitting set salesman case
pince nez fitting set salesman case
At the other end of the spectrum, some individuals bid an absurd amount on a very crude pince-nez. The "winning" bid was $565! The seller in Bulgaria described the pince-nez as worn by an unnamed official in Royal Bulgaria during the 1920's. LeDandy and his friend see nothing special about the piece. In fact, I wouldn't pay $1 for it. What possessed several people to bid such an absurd amount?

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