The origin of sunglasses dates back to the eighteen century, when the noblewomen and gentlemen of Venice began feeling the need to protect their skin, but also their eyes, from the reflections on the water of the Lagoon.
Venetian noblewomen who wanted to protect their skin during the navigation of the city’s canals on board of the typical gondolas would use a sort of hand-held mirror made of green lens (the typical color of the Venetian glass, obtained by a mysterious and unknown material) that were called gondola glasses or vetri di dama. These can be considered as the very first attempt to protect the eyes and skin from the rays of sunshine.
But Venetian opticians were also the first in Italy who started producing eyeglasses for men with temple pieces that reached to the ear, holding the lenses on the nose, in the way we still wear them today. This type of male sunglasses was known as Goldoni glasses and even though nobody knows exactly why they were so called, legend has it that the famous Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, used to wear a pair of those glasses while walking around the city.
This first prototype of glasses with UV lenses was produced in Murano, Venice, during the eighteen century and the first time it made an appearance in literature was the 1911 when a French noble woman, a certain Madame Alfred Heymann, author of Lunettes et Lorgnettes de Jadis, inserted in her book the first-in-history print representing a gondola glass, that she described as “Gondola glass with green glass to preserve the sight from reflection. Venice, XVIII century”.

The most extraordinary thing of the whole story is that even though the UV were discovered only in the 1870s, the Venetian opticians of the 17th century, already fabricated lenses that actually protected eyes as efficiently as the later versions. In fact when Venetian optician Roberto Vascellari tried to put the green Venetian lenses from the past under the spectrophotometer, he made an extraordinary discovery: the green lenses was able to protect from UV even more than those lenses made in 1956 by Giuseppe Ratti for the famous expedition of Lino Lacedelli on the K2, thanks to the massive presence of iron. If you want to discover more curious facts you might not know about sunglasses.
As an unmissable piece in every fashionista’s (and not only) handbag, sunglasses are nowadays synonymous with fashion and glamour, the accessory all of us love to wear and show off especially on sunny days. But did you know the history of the universally used and glamorous sunglasses was strictly linked to that of the Italian city of Venice? Right, originally Venetian noblewomen and gentlemen used green glasses in order to protect and maintain the pallor of their noble skin (as well as to fight signs of ageing) from the reflection of the sun on the water of Venetian canals. At those times, the pallor of the skin was in fact a sign of nobility and the distinguishing feature, setting them apart from the lower social classes.
Thanks to Claudia Baroncelli


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