Frame materials

The options for glasses frames are never-ending, reflecting the personal style of the wearer and holding the lenses in place. Frame materials also vary depending on the prescription of the lens and each individual’s needs and lifestyle, and new innovative engineering creates different options every year or so. However, I would like to describe the basic types of frame materials and what features or aesthetics they offer.


Acetate glasses /Zyl glasses:

The most used material when it comes to quality designer frames is definitely acetate. A high-quality plastic originating from the renewable resources of wood pulp and natural cotton fibers. Acetate retains its color brightness impeccably over time because its hue is embedded in the material rather than sprayed on which also prevents any color peeling. By mixing different colors of melted acetate, beautiful color combinations can be created, in layers (in all directions) or in swirls, giving it a turtle look, but in every possible color. When creating a frame out of acetate, a flat sheet of the material is sawn (either by hand or CNC) into the design of the frame and then heat-shaped to add curve and inclination.

Nylon glasses:

 This frame material is mostly used in cheap sunglasses. Nylon is strong, lightweight, and flexible, but it can become brittle with age. For this reason, it has for the most part been replaced by nylon blends – polyamides, copolyamides and gliamides – which are more durable.

TR90 Nylon glasses:

TR90 was produced through Swiss technology as a thermoplastic material that is incredibly durable, flexible, and lightweight. Glasses made with TR90 are extremely comfortable because they have a flexible quality. Since they are flexible, they can bend under pressure and contour your face comfortably. This flexibility also makes TR90 glasses resilient to damage. Because the material is pliable, they are far less likely to break or bend from impact. If you’re guilty of constantly dropping your glasses, fear not! TR90 frames can prevail! Finally, and most remarkable of all, TR90 glasses are supremely lightweight! Even the boldest, biggest styles don’t feel bulky when made with TR90. The thermoplastic material has a barely-there feel that you truly have to wear to believe.

Ultem glasses:

ULTEM resin is a flame-retardant, high-performance thermoplastic. It features a high strength-to-weight ratio, excellent heat resistance, and high impact strength. This material is ultra-lightweight, durable, and heat resistant up to 400⁰. Ultem frames can weigh only 1/3 of the weight of traditional plastic or metal frames.


Titanium glasses:

One of the most important aspects of keeping an eyeglasses frame is its durability. No matter how carefully you use your eyewear frames, they are bound to break or fall. Most Eyeglasses are made up of Metal and Plastic Material which are commonly used in the manufacturing of eyeglasses frames. But these materials can deform easily if used for a very long time. People started choosing titanium material over metal and plastic in eyeglasses because these frames can be bent and twisted and then come back to its original form. The quality of these frames is durable and reliable for rough use also. People who opt for titanium frames also do not have to be bothered about carefully handling them as these are impact-proof.

As compared with regular metal, titanium is one of the lightest and most preferred materials used in the manufacturing of eyeglass frames. These titanium frames can be easily worn with a lot of comfort and relief while playing games, jogging or running. With no maintenance required for these frames, it is surely one of the best materials, especially for eyeglasses frames

Flexon glasses:

This is a titanium alloy composed of roughly 50% titanium and 50% nickel. Frames made of memory metal are extremely flexible and can be twisted or bent to an extreme and still return to their original shape. This feature makes memory metal frames great for kids or anyone who is hard on their glasses.

Beta titanium glasses:

This is an alloy of predominantly titanium, with small amounts of aluminum and vanadium. These other metals in the alloy make beta titanium more flexible than 100% titanium for easier fitting adjustments. Beta titanium has memory features and is mostly used in high-quality designer frames. Due to it toughness and low weight, it can be used to create thick-looking frame fronts as well as ultra-thin eyewear temples.

Monel glasses:

This popular, inexpensive material is an alloy of nickel and copper. It is less costly than other metals, but – depending on the quality of the plating used – Monel frames may or may not discolor and cause skin reactions over time. Many low-priced metal frames would be made out of Monel.

Beryllium glasses:

This lower-cost alternative to titanium resists corrosion and tarnishing, making it an excellent choice for anyone with high skin acidity or who spends a good amount of time in or around saltwater. It’s also lightweight, strong, flexible, and available in a wide range of colors.

Stainless steel glasses:

Stainless steel frames and surgical stainless are an alternative to titanium. Qualities of stainless steel frames include lightweight, low toxicity and strength; many stainless steel frames also are nickel-free and thus hypoallergenic. Stainless steel is readily available and reasonably priced. It’s an alloy of steel and chromium,  which provides excellent resistance to corrosion, abrasion, and heat.

Aluminum glasses:

The most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, aluminum is a lightweight option for eyeglass frames. It is the most widely used non-ferrous metal in the world. In addition to its lightweight, aluminum is also highly corrosion-resistant, soft, and durable. Aluminum is also 100 percent recyclable. Aluminum can bend and be slightly less durable than other materials.

Gold glasses:

Dense and shiny, gold is the most malleable metal on the planet. Because of its high cost, it is used sparingly in the manufacture of eyeglass frames. Worked into stunning silhouettes in some high-end eyewear collections, it is also used in more moderately-priced lines as an accent or plating.

Silver glasses:

Solid silver or sterling silver is not used commonly as a principal frame material because it doesn’t make very wearable or comfortable frames. Sometimes silver is used as a trace element in metal alloy frames and often provides a jewelry-like accent on plastic frames.


Wood or Faux Wood glasses:

True wood is often used for sustainability purposes to create frames. Sometimes, faux wood finishes are applied to frames for fashionable purposes.

Oak’s reputation is justified. Used for carpentry, it is solid and durable. Slightly flexible, it offers unusual resistance to shocks, falls, and even heat. It is thanks to these qualities, as well as its organic, traditional appearance, that many designers choose oak for their wooden glasses.
Ash has been used for centuries to make tool handles and even wheels of cheese. Solid, it resists damage from falls and changes in temperature. Above all, it does not deform: once formed, ash retains its shape practically foreverExtremely widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, ash is inexpensive. So it is logical that many new brands choose it as a lower-risk investment.
Walnut contains innumerable nuances of hue, from yellow to gray to brown.  Used by carpenters and cabinet-makers, it is often found in moldings or the interiors of luxury cars. A noble and durable wood, walnut attracts designers in search of elegance.
Birch is Common in very cold climates, the birch is a highly resistant wood. Shocks, blows, twisting—it can handle all of it. Yet, unlike the oak, its wood is flexible and easy to shape. It is used for its lovely range of colors, from cream to pale yellow, in many wooden glasses.
Zebrano has been used by numerous cabinetmakers and artists. Imported from Gabon and Cameroon, it is prized for the manufacture of luxury furniture and string instruments. Today, this noble material is used in the manufacture of wooden glasses.
Bamboo, although not, strictly speaking, a tree, is nevertheless used like other woods. Many designers have chosen this plant for its exceptional strength, flexibility, and, of course, its natural aesthetic. Bamboo’s environmental impact is much lower than that of most woods. If it is irrigated regularly and the soil is properly fertilized, bamboo can grow more than one meter a day! This incredible growth rate, combined with its ability to be grown almost anywhere, makes bamboo a very popular material for woodworkers.
Rosewood is a name used for several species of tropical trees. Their tints range from light brown to red with darker veins. Very often used for musical instruments, rosewood does not split and is resistant to pressure.

Buffalo horn glasses:

While beehive hairdos may not be in style anymore, horn-rimmed sunglasses certainly are. These glasses have stuck around for decades, bringing their unique vintage look to everyone who wears them. A renewable resource, the horn provides a rich, multi-toned material for luxury frames. It is also a comfortable eyeglass material because it warms to body temperature when worn. Buffalo horn frames are most often hand-made, one-of-a-kind pieces. Although buffalo is the obvious choice, any kind of horn can be used, as long as it is large enough to cut out a frame shape. The actual horn is cut open, heated, and flattened till it becomes a flat sheet, and can then be shaped like you would do with a sheet of acetate.

Recycled acetate glasses:

When cutting out a frame shape from a sheet of acetate, the waste can be reused for new frames. By melting the debris and adding black ink, new sheets of black acetate (the most common color) can be created. They consist of 97% recycled acetate. The remaining 3% are merely black ink. Once you go recycled black… you never go back.

Bio-based acetate glasses:

While regular acetate is made from a mixture of cotton fiber and crude oil or toxic plasticizers, bio-based acetate replaces the plasticizers and traditional pigments with organic additives, bringing pollution down to a minimum.

3D printed bioplastics glasses:

3D-printed eyewear is one of the trends of the decade. Most 3d printed frames are made from polyamide plastic, which consists mostly of castor oil. Although not fully biodegradable, it is a bio-plastic derived from renewable biomass sources.

Want to learn more about eyewear materials or eyewear design in general, get our book on Amazing Eyewear from our webshop.

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