Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Modern Pince-Nez Readers

Earlier in the week I received a pince-nez reader from Debby Burk Optical. My colleague and I have been looking forward to reviewing these readers as the lenses are set on a modern mounting. With a purchase price listed at $24.95, we did not expect much beyond the cheap drugstore reading glasses. Without giving away the whole review, I will say that we were very pleasantly surprised.

The glasses arrived with a soft leather carrying case and a simple cutout with instructions for adjustment of the bridge.

This is a classic, hoop spring style mounting. I was amazed at its remarkable similarity in construction to my antique hoop springs that I wear daily. For the price, I expected a one piece unit for the bridge, nose guards and lens straps. Just like the antique hoop springs, Burk's readers use a a screw to attach the separate nose guards and lens straps to the bridge. See the Renaissance post on antique hoop springs to compare the similarity in design.

Another nice feature is the screw attachment for the lens to the lens strap. A nice touch! I expected the cheap rivets used in the old drugstore, pince-nez sunglasses.

You'll note the nose guards have a smooth finish. At first I thought the nose guards were the old style "sanitary" (i.e., all metal) pads. I was wrong. There is a lacquer finish to them which helps the grip on the nose.

The mounting itself is crude when compared to the quality of antique hoop springs. However this does not interfere with its function and should not present a problem to the wearer. For the price, the mounting is very well made and impressive.

The wonderful modern aspect of this mounting is its incredible flexibility. I have always been skeptical of "one size fits all" claims. Burk's readers do live up to this statement as the spring steel mounting will adapt to a wide variety of nose bridge widths. When I received the readers, the bridge was very wide. The instructions tell the wearer to narrow the bridge mounting by bringing the lenses together so they overlap each other. It works. An antique bridge would never hold up to this kind of treatment.

The plastic lenses (C-39) are typical of the quality of lenses for inexpensive readers and more than adequate for its intended purpose. Since I do not use readers (yet!), I can't speak to the accuracy of the lens but I have no reason to doubt their claimed strength. I chose the lowest strength lens for my sample.

Burk's readers use a roundish lens which is better suited in size for conventional specs. Each lens measures roughly one and three quarters inches wide and one and a half inches tall. The classic dimensions for an oval pince-nez lens is about a one quarter inch less in height and width. A large lens is a common mistake for eye professionals when dealing with pince-nez. The smaller, classic lenses looks much better and is more stable for wear (lenses pictured below). Nevertheless, the supplied lenses should work fine as a reader.

Since the mounting is so flexible, a great fit is assured if you have a suitably prominent nose bridge for pince-nez wear. The simple instructions provided with the readers allows even the clumsiest wearer to properly adjust the bridge. By crossing the lenses together a few times, I had a perfect fit.

Now on to the nose guards. Compared to antique nose guards, they are more comfortable and secure thanks to the lacquer coating. A wearer should have no problem with slippage or comfort for short periods of time.

The addition of silicone nose pads help immensely for longer term wear and enhanced comfort. I put on a pair of my QTE nose pads and I was very impressed with the fit of these readers. The combination of silicone nose pads and the adjustable mounting provide the perfect fit.

The Renaissance endorses Burk's pince-nez as an excellent, inexpensive reader for the house. Due to the large, disproportionate size of the lenses, these glasses would not look good in public for most people.

Also, we strongly encourage anyone interested in wearing pince-nez to purchase these readers in order to get a "feel" for a pince-nez with proper fit. If you've had no experience wearing pince-nez, this is an essential step before you invest in getting a set of prescription lenses made for your future mounting. Don't be cocky, it is not that easy to gauge a good fit with pince-nez if you have never worn them.

I would not have prescription lenses made for this mounting.

My first antique mounting proved to be too tight after extended wear. This situation could have been avoided if I experienced the proper fit of a pince-nez via these readers. It is $25 well spent, considering lenses will probably cost you more than $200.


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