Eyeglass Frame Materials (2023)

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By Erinn Morgan

Different eyeglass frame materials greatly expand your options for a new look. While shopping for new eyeglasses or sunglasses, ask your optician for advice about variety in colors, durability, lightness, favorite brands, hypoallergenic materials, uniqueness and price.

In fact, finding eyeglasses with the qualities that are most important to you could be as simple as choosing the right frame material, since each type has its own unique strengths. If you're shopping online, be sure to use the retailer's material filter while browsing eyeglasses to ensure you find what you are looking for.


If you want the colors of the rainbow, then zyl (zylonite, or cellulose acetate) is your material. Zyl is a very cost-effective and creative option for eyewear and is extremely lightweight. Particularly popular right now are laminated zyl frames that have layered colors. Look for light colors on the interior sides, which can make your eyewear "disappear" from your visual field when you wear them. An all-black frame, on the other hand, is visible at all times on both interior and exterior sides.

Some manufacturers also use cellulose acetate propionate, a nylon-based plastic that is hypoallergenic. It's lightweight and has more transparency and gloss than other plastics. If your main criterion for a frame is lightness, then definitely consider propionate frames.

Eyeglasses made of nylon were introduced in the late 1940s. Because of brittleness and other problems, eyeglass manufacturers switched to blended nylon (polyamides, co-polyamides and gliamides). Today's blended nylon frames are both strong and lightweight.

Nylon is also a premier material for sports and performance frames, typically made of gliamides, grilamid or trogamid materials that are very resistant to hot and cold and are more flexible, yet also stiff. Nylon also is easily molded into today's popular wraparound styles, as well as other shapes that are difficult to produce.

It may sound odd, but plastic made of castor oil (actually, castor seed oil) is now used in some eyewear. Traditionally used as a laxative, a soap ingredient and a machinery lubricant, castor oil is also making its way into plastic auto parts, along with other non-petroleum-based plastics. Reasons for castor oil plastic development include the high price of petroleum and the ease of growing castor bean plants in places where other profitable plants don't thrive.

Plastic frames do have some drawbacks. They are easier to break than metal frames, they will burn (but are not easily ignited), and aging and exposure to sunlight decrease their strength slightly. Color can fade over time, but not as much with modern materials.


Monel — a mixture of any of a broad range of metals — is the most widely used material in the manufacture of eyeglass frames. Its malleability and corrosion resistance are pluses.

Though most monel frames are hypoallergenic, it's possible people with sensitive skin may experience irritation if monel rests directly against their face. But this is preventable if the right kind of plating, such as palladium or other nickel-free options, is used.

Titanium and beta-titanium are also popular materials for eyeglass frames. Titanium is a silver-gray metal that's lightweight, durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. It has been used for everything from spacecraft to implantable medical devices such as heart valves.

Titanium eyewear can be produced in a variety of colors for a clean, modern look with a hint of color. And it's hypoallergenic.

Some titanium frames are made from an alloy that is a combination of titanium and other metals, such as nickel or copper. In general, titanium alloy frames cost less than 100 percent titanium frames.

Beryllium, a steel-gray metal, is a lower-cost alternative to titanium eyewear. It resists corrosion and tarnish, making it an excellent choice for wearers who have high skin acidity or spend a good amount of time in or around salt water.

Beryllium is also lightweight, very strong, very flexible (making it easy for an optician to adjust your glasses) and available in a wide range of colors.

Comparison of Eyeglass Frame Materials
Material Hypo-
Strong Flexible Corrosion-
of Colors,
acetate &
Nylon Coating
Monel With plating
Stainless steel
Aluminum Coating
Wood, bone &
buffalo horn
Gold (10k) &
sterling silver

*Coatings and frames made of natural materials such as bone typically cannot incorporate artificial colors, patterns and textures.

Stainless steel frames and surgical stainless are another alternative to titanium. Qualities of stainless steel frames include light weight, 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, and may also contain another element. Most stainless steels contain anywhere from 10 to 30 percent chromium, which provides excellent resistance to corrosion, abrasion and heat.

Flexon is a titanium-based alloy. This unique and popular material, originated by the eyeglass manufacturer Marchon, also is called "memory metal." Frames made of Flexon come back into shape even after twisting or bending. Flexon frames are lightweight, hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.

Marchon company officials describe the frame as about 25 percent lighter in weight than standard metals, giving you a much lighter feel on your face.

Frames made from aluminum are lightweight and highly corrosion-resistant. Aluminum is used primarily by high-end eyewear designers because of the unique look it creates.

Aluminum is the world's most abundant and widely used nonferrous metal (metal other than iron or steel). Pure aluminum is actually soft and weak, but commercial aluminum with small amounts of silicon and iron is hard and strong.

Unusual Frame Materials

Want a distinctive style? Willing to pay for it? Try eyeglass frames or design accents made from these materials. High-end optical boutiques will be the best hunting grounds for this unique and sometimes pricey eyewear.

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.

Some companies make gold eyewear, typically gold plating rather than solid gold. Like silver, gold can be used for accenting plastic or metal frames as well.

Wood, bone and buffalo horn frames usually are handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces. Wood and bone, though stiffer, less adjustable and much more expensive than other frame materials, are appealing because of their unique beauty. Buffalo horn frames have an elegant look and warm to your body temperature; they can feel unlike any other frame you've ever worn before.

Often used on temples or across frame fronts, leather is not as durable or practical as other materials used for accenting, but it provides an interesting and fashionable look. Recently, velvet was used to wrap a special-edition sunglass model.

Semi-precious or precious stones and crystals are sometimes used as accents in frames, especially in the temples. Popular choices are onyx, turquoise and Swarovski crystals; but even diamonds can be used for a luxurious touch. Such designs usually are worn in a formal office or on dressy occasions. Rhinestones are a less expensive alternative and often are used to create a flashy or retro look, especially in upturned "cat's eye" frames.

Are You Allergic to Your Eyeglass Frame?

Do certain frame or nose pad materials irritate your skin? Tell your eye doctor or optician, who can help you find eyeglasses you can wear comfortably. Here's the lowdown on materials:

If metal frames cause a reaction, nickel is usually the culprit because most metal frames are made of a nickel alloy. Other metals used include aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, zinc, copper, beryllium, gold and silver. Stainless, titanium, gold and silver are usually hypoallergenic.

Some people are allergic to the nose pads on metal frames. Most are made of silicone or acetate, but they also can be made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), nickel, titanium or rubber. Silicone is tricky: certain silicones are hypoallergenic (such as medical silicone), but others can trigger allergic reactions. Both PVC and titanium are usually hypoallergenic.

Most plastic glasses are made of zyl (also called zylonite, acetate and cellulose acetate) or propionate. Other materials used in plastic frames include polyamide, nylon, polycarbonate, carbon and Optyl (a brand of epoxy resin). Propionate, polyamide, nylon and Optyl frames are all considered hypoallergenic.

Read more in our Can You Be Allergic To Eyeglasses article.

Gina White also contributed to this article.

Page published on Wednesday, February 27, 2019


What are the materials used in glasses frame? ›

The two commonly used plastic frame materials are called zyl and propionate. Zyl, also known as cellulose acetate, is the most commonly used plastic frame material and is available in every color of the rainbow. Propionate is the second most common materials and is a nylon-based, hypoallergenic plastic.

Which frame material is best for eyeglasses? ›

In general, frames made from metal, titanium or alloys (a mixture of metals) stand up well to wear and tear. Titanium frames are very strong, lightweight and corrosion-resistant.

What is the most common frame material? ›

Monel is a nickel alloy containing 68 percent nickel, 30 percent copper and two percent iron. Monel,™ the most commonly used frame material today, is often used for components that require sturdiness and rigidity, such as temples and bridges. Pros: This alloy is strong and it can also be welded, brazed, and soldered.

Is titanium or stainless steel better for glasses? ›

Due to the superior strength of titanium, frames can be made thinner which makes them very lightweight. In fact, titanium frames are typically 40 percent lighter than standard steel frames. This makes them a great option for people who find other frames tend to weigh heavy on their nose and ears.

What are unbreakable eyeglass frames made of? ›

Titanium: One of the most durable eyeglasses frames is the titanium eyeglasses frames. It is lightweight, strong, and flexible. So, titanium eyeglasses frames have lots of fans in the eyeglasses market.

Do all frames come with glass? ›

Generally yes, frames that are designed for mounting photographs & prints will include either glass or acrylic. Other styles of prints that can be framed such as canvas & metal, don't come with glass or acrylic as it's not necessary for displaying these types of prints.

Are more expensive glasses frames better? ›

Very much like automobiles, in general the more you pay, the more you get. Designer labels aside, more expensive frames are more complex, made from better materials, and handcrafted in countries that pay fair labor rates. This translates into a better quality, longer lasting products. Next week, Part 2: Lenses.

Which glasses frames are most comfortable? ›

Titanium frames offer an ultra lightweight stylish highly flexible option for those looking for the most comfortable pair of glasses. It is durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. Titanium eyewear comes in a variety of colors for a clean, modern look with a hint of color.

Are all eyeglass frames the same quality? ›

The fact of the matter is, not all frames are created equal.

Just like a car, computer, or bicycle, the materials and quality of parts for eyeglasses can vary greatly! Newer plastics (like acetate) and sturdy metals (like titanium) provide comfort and durability, but at an added cost to acquire and manufacture.

How do I choose the best frame? ›

Tips for choosing a frame

Tip 1: Don't overemphasize matching specific colors in your photo to the frame color. Instead, consider the overall tone of the image when selecting a frame. Tip 2: Select a lighter frame for casual or simple art—and choose a darker frame for more elegant or formal pieces.

What are the two most common framing materials? ›

Framing materials are usually wood, engineered wood, or structural steel. The alternative to framed construction is generally called mass wall construction, where horizontal layers of stacked materials such as log building, masonry, rammed earth, adobe, etc. are used without framing.

What are the disadvantages of titanium eyeglass frames? ›

Disadvantages of titanium glasses

Titanium and titanium glasses cost a lot to produce, requirements in buckling, stamping, cutting, and welding are very high, not easy to welding and electroplating.So the price is more expensive, only for high-end glasses frames.

What are the disadvantages of titanium glasses frames? ›

Titanium Glasses Frames

Pros: Titanium is as strong as steel, lightweight, hypoallergenic, and corrosion-resistant. Cons: This material is more expensive than other materials. Beware of the difference between “pure titanium” and “titanium alloy.”

Are titanium eyeglass frames worth it? ›

Titanium Frames Are Corrosion Resistant

The good news is that titanium is an inert metal, which means it will never rust. So, titanium frames should be your go-to eyewear if you spend a lot of time in the sun, at the gym, on the beach, or in other areas where moisture and humidity are prevalent.

What glasses doesn't break easily? ›

While both tempered and annealed glass are great choices for unbreakable drinking glasses, annealed glass breaks faster than tempered glass. When tempered glass does break, it shatters into many small pieces.

What is the most expensive part of glasses? ›

The frames are almost always going to be the most expensive part of buying glasses, so cutting down on how often you buy them will be the most cost-effective part of the process.

Is it better to frame with acrylic or glass? ›

Today, acrylic is significantly better. Here's why: Acrylic is lighter than glass. It makes hanging framed artwork easier and less risky.

Why wear frames without lenses? ›

Lensless glasses are glasses that lack lenses. They are worn solely for aesthetic or fashion purposes, having no function in vision correction or eye protection. The frames are usually oversized, and commonly all black in color.

Is glass or plastic better for frames? ›

Acrylic is lighter than glass, thus more affordable to ship. It also is more durable, which makes it ideal for frames ordered online. Glass is heavier and more fragile, but some people prefer it for the aesthetic, or because it's less susceptible to scratching. It can still shatter easily, though.

How can you tell if glasses are high quality? ›

Tell-tale signs of a well made a pair of prescription eyeglasses
  1. IMPECCABLE FINISH QUALITY. Premium eyewear is similar to high-end jewelry, or watches. ...
  2. GENUINE RIVET HINGES. The hinge is the only moving part in a pair of eyeglasses. ...

Why do optometrists charge so much for glasses? ›

Have you ever wondered why glasses cost so much? When you buy glasses from a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer, you're not just paying for the frame and lenses; you're also paying big money to cover the retailer's hefty outsourcing costs, which usually include manufacturing, licensing fees, warehousing, and more.

Are cheap frames worth it? ›

At first glance, some cheap eyeglass frames may look like more expensive frames. But often, they are made of low-grade materials that can cause skin irritation over time. Cheap plastic frames can get bleached by UV rays and the finish can roughen after a few months of wear.

What color frame is best for glasses? ›

Matching glasses frames colour to eye colour

For a subdued and understated look, choose frames in a colour that match with the neutral tones in your eyes, such as brown, beige, or black. If you want to channel a fun, statement-making look, choose a colour that's contrasting but complementary to your eye colour.

Does the frame matter for glasses? ›

According to the Business Insider article, How to Pick the Right Glasses for Your Face, the width of your frames should match the width of your face, which means the glasses should not hang off the side of your face (frame is too wide) nor should the sides of your temples be visible (frame is too narrow).

What shape glasses are best for long? ›

With a long face, rectangular frames can be your best pick for a safe look. They're suitable for a wide range of facial shapes, but they're particularly effective at balancing long ones. It's best for you to use rectangular glasses since they won't distort or make your face look longer than it is.

Are plastic eyeglass frames good? ›

Plastic frames aren't always the most durable if you have a more active lifestyle. If you get hit in the face while wearing them, there is a possibility they could break. Polycarbonate or metal frames may be the better option if you plan to wear your eyewear during sporting events or higher intensity activities.

Why is Lenscrafters so expensive? ›

Why are lenses so expensive at Lenscrafters? The characteristics of metal material The material of metal glasses frame chooses some kind of metal material or alloy to make mostly. Most of the copper alloys are treated as the base material and then have surface treatment processing.

Are branded glasses frames worth it? ›

Designer glasses are prescription eyeglasses that are widely considered to be superior in the vision benefits that they provide or in the way that they look. They also tend to offer exceptional durability, along with improved warranties and the added option of customization.

Are more expensive frames worth it? ›

If you're a regular glasses-wearer, spending a little extra on a higher quality pair of frames with good durability and strength will save you money at the end of the day, because those frames won't wear down or outright break nearly as quickly as a cheaper pair of frames.

What is the best frame rate for quality? ›

24fps: Cinematic Standard

For cinematic film and television (and some online video) 24fps is the standard. That's because this frame rate feels the most cinematic, and looks the most natural to the human eye. It's the standard for any feature film.

What is the most popular frame? ›

Traditionally, the most common frame sizes have been 4x6, 5x7 and 8x10. These look great in any room in your house or office! Recently, however, 5x5 picture frames have become really popular. The square frame means that you can print your Instagram photos as they are without them being cropped or cut off.

Should glasses cover your eyebrows? ›

As a rule, at least the top half of your eyebrows should be visible. Your glasses shouldn't cover them completely, nor should they show them so much that your eyebrows look like they're floating on top of your frame.

Are metal glasses better than plastic? ›

Metal is typically more expensive than plastic, but it's durable and long-lasting. It also comes in a variety of colors and styles for you to choose from. Plastic is less expensive than metal, but it isn't as durable or flexible so it may not be ideal for active people.

Which frame material is ideal for higher power? ›

Slender metal frames are an ideal choice if you have high positive power, i.e. you are far-sighted. Lenses with high positive power are thicker in the middle and thinner around the edges due to their convex shape.

What are the 4 different types of framing? ›

Types of Framing. In general, there are four different types of elements you can use to create a frame within your shot and draw the viewer's attention: architectural, natural, geometric shapes, and light/shadow.

What are the three types of framing? ›

There are three principal types of framing for light structures: western, balloon, and braced.

What are the two main types of frames? ›

In general, there are two main categories of frame structures, namely the braced frame structure and rigid frame structure. These are common in various construction project management.

What is the downside of titanium? ›

Disadvantages of Titanium

The primary disadvantage of Titanium from a manufacturing and engineering perspective is its high reactivity, which means it has to be managed differently during all stages of its production. Impurities introduced during the Kroll process, VAR or machining were once near impossible to remove.

Do titanium frames wear out? ›

Handbuilt using premium grade titanium for durability and finesse, Reilly frames will last you for decades of rides to come. Titanium is rust-resistant, which means it's able to withstand corrosion - which is one of the contributing factors in its long life span.

Why do people like frames made of titanium? ›

Pure Titanium has strong durability properties and provides easy adjustability for the optician. A titanium frame material is 50 percent lighter than common metal frame materials like monel, only aluminum is lighter.

How long do titanium frames last? ›

In contrast, titanium frames weigh 1.7 to 3 pounds, are designed to last 50-100 years, and due to their ultra-high modulus-of-elasticity (resistance to long-term fatigue), they can ride just like new decades later.

Are there any dangers of titanium? ›

Titanium is not considered a toxic metal but it is a heavy metal and it does have serious negative health effects. Titanium has the ability to affect lung function causing lung diseases such as pleural disease, it can cause chest pain with tightness, breathing difficulties, coughing, irritation of the skin or eyes.

Why are titanium glasses so expensive? ›

First and foremost, titanium is an expensive material. It is a rare metal that is difficult to extract and process. It is also a lightweight and strong material that is resistant to corrosion, which makes it an excellent choice for eyeglasses.

What is the lightest eyeglass frame material? ›

Titanium. Titanium is the strong, lightest metal used in eyeglass frames for many years. Titanium may be a good choice if you want your glasses to be light but still durable. It's also hypoallergenic and won't irritate sensitive skin.

Are glasses frames made from titanium? ›

Titanium is a metal that is very light and highly flexible. These characteristics make titanium a popular choice for designer eyeglasses such as Silhouette Eyeglasses. It is commonly used to make eyeglass frames and may be used in its pure form or as an alloy.

What metal is used for frames? ›

Stainless steel is widely used in the manufacture of frames due to its high tensile strength and corrosion resistance as well as its malleable and hypoallergenic properties.

How can you tell what material your glasses are? ›

All you need to do is tap a lens against your teeth, a tool that's always available. If the lenses make a soft ringing sound, they are more likely to be glass. If they make a soft *thunk*, then they are definitely plastic.

How do you tell if your glasses are acetate? ›

Acetate frames have the nose pad added at the end by molding on clear plastic. Note how the color does not match the frame front.

Are metal frames better than acetate? ›

Light – metal frames can be lighter weight compared to acetate frames, especially when made from metals such as titanium or stainless steel. Strong – stainless steel and titanium, as well as being super light, they are super strong. They are a great option for anyone who is a little tougher on their glasses.

What are the disadvantages of titanium frames? ›

Disadvantages of pure titanium frames

The material is soft, the glasses can not be made more delicate, only the lines are thicker, in order to ensure stability and strength. Usually, when you are not wearing a pure titanium glasses frame, it is better to put them in the case of glasses, to avoid pressure deformation.

What are the cons of titanium frames? ›

Titanium Glasses Frames

Pros: Titanium is as strong as steel, lightweight, hypoallergenic, and corrosion-resistant. Cons: This material is more expensive than other materials. Beware of the difference between “pure titanium” and “titanium alloy.”

What is the lightest material for eyeglasses? ›

The lightest eyeglass frames are made of high-quality materials such as titanium or aluminum. These materials ensure the frame's durability, meaning your eyeglasses will last years. Most importantly, the lightest eyeglass frames offer style versatility because they weigh less than traditional heavy ones.

Which lens is better glass or plastic? ›

Glass lenses provide the clearest vision with the smallest amount of distortion. Scratch resistance. Glass lenses are almost impossible to scratch, while plastic lenses can be scratched easily if you are not careful. Thin and attractive.

Why are glasses so expensive? ›

Four things determine the price: where they are made, what materials they are made of, the complexity of the design and whether the eyeglasses company pays a royalty to a “designer.” Most eyeglasses frames are made in China because the cost of labor is lower there.

Which is better acetate or plastic frames? ›

Acetate is stronger, flexible, and more durable than regular plastic frames, which is why we use them for eyeglasses frames. They are more resistant to pressure placed upon the frames and can bend further before breaking. Acetate is a higher quality plastic than injected molded frames.

What is an Optyl frame? ›

Optyl is a thermo-durable plastic material made from epoxy resins with exceptional qualities. Light and durable, it lends itself to top-notch finishes. The name is a registered trademark of Safilo, which uses it exclusively to produce some models of its eyewear collections.


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