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What is a Pince-Nez?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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A pince-nez is a set of eyeglasses which are designed to clip to the bridge of the nose. This style of eyeglass has been around since the 15th century, although it became especially fashionable in the 19th century. Today, the pince-nez is associated primarily with elderly people. Many people are familiar with the style, thanks to the ubiquitous appearance of pince-nez glasses in 19th century portraits, and the fact that these glasses were worn by a number of notable and famous people, such as Theodore Roosevelt.

The name of this style of glasses is lifted directly from the French, and it means “pinch nose.” There are a number of different styles of pince-nez available, differentiated on the basis of how their bridges are constructed. C-bridges are made with a flexible bridge which can be easily adjusted to the shape of the nose, while hard bridges and spring bridges use tension to hold the pince-nez on, and they tend to be less forgiving when the wrong bridge size is selected. Because bridge size is important when picking out pince-nez, it is a good idea to personally try a pair on before purchase.

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Many people used pince-nez glasses are reading glasses in the 19th century, which is why they often appear on ribbons or strings in portraits. By attaching the glasses to a ribbon or pin, the wearer could keep them ready to hand, just like people who wear reading glasses on a cord around their necks. Many people associate the pince-nez style with librarians, as people in this profession frequently need reading glasses, especially later in life.

Just like other eyeglasses and spectacles, the lenses in a pince-nez can be custom ground to address the vision problems of the wearer. It is also possible find pince-nez eyeglasses with a small magnifying glass attached, or with bifocal lenses for varying situations where vision correction might be needed. Because the fit of the bridge and lenses is customized for the wearer, it is relatively rare for people to swap pince-nez eyeglasses.

Several companies still make pince-nez glasses, for people who want them, and others do a lively trade in reproductions for costumes. It is also possible to find antique pince-nez eyeglasses, often at vintage and antique stores, and some people like to collect them as objects of curiosity. The glasses can be made with metal, tortiseshell, bone, or even plastic frames, with antique versions having glass lenses, while a modern pince-nez lens is often made from specialized plastic.

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anon947452
Post 4

This article mentions there are companies still making pince-nez glasses. Is there a listing of these companies?

I am looking for a modern reproduction of a hard bridge pince-nez and would love to learn what companies I can contact to make this happen.

anon88076
Post 2

Pince-nez eyeglasses were the most popular eyewear 1885 to 1920 especially for late teens to early 30's

Properly fitted, a pince-nez was both comfortable and secure. Check out Pince-nez Renaissance, the only detailed and accurate source of information on pince-nez.

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