Object Matters The dazzling history of sunglasses.

Object Matters The dazzling history of sunglasses.

  • Words Katie Calautti
  • Photograph Jerry Schatzberg/Getty Images

The first people to wear sunglasses could have hardly imagined that, centuries later, they would be a glamour accessory whose function often bore no relation to the presence of harsh sunlight.

To cut the relentless glare of light on white in the arctic region of North America, the Inuit people carved slits in pieces of wood or bone to create snow goggles. To more opulent effect, legend has it that while watching gladiatorial events, Roman Emperor Nero shaded his eyes from the sun through an emerald. In 15th-century China, lenses were made from flat pieces of smoky quartz. Emerald-tinted Goldoni glasses were worn by gondoliers on the sunny canals of 18th-century Venice and, around the same time, blue and green glass eye-preservers were popularized in Britain to correct light sensitivity ...

ISSUE 52

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