Eyeglass Frame Materials

Steve Mower - August 2018

Glasses Frames- Frame Materials

At ReadingGlassesEtc.com, we want you to be an informed shopper. When you browse through our fine collection of reading glasses, you will see a name for the frame materials, like Acetate, Titanium, Ultem, TR90 and more. Here is where you can find out about what they are, their features and their benefits.

Eyeglass frame come in many different materials and these are the materials that we currently offer. Some are heavier, some are lighter, and some materials allow for many different colors and color schemes. Below is a list of various glasses frames materials and their basic properties, and advantages and disadvantages.

Metal Frame Materials-

METAL FRAMES generically, are a blend of different metals, typically with nickel alloys. We use the generic term 'Metal' for metal frames other than stainless steel or titanium.

Advantages: Metal frames are fairly corrosion resistant and durable especially with spring hinges as well as adjustable.

Disadvantages: Not 100% corrosion resistant, Nickle content can cause allergic reactions to some people, unless it is plated with a nickle free metal.

Hypoallergenic?- NO

TITANIUM- Pure titanium and Beta-titanium are the best metals used in the industry today.  Pure titanium is a gray metal which is very common but requires unique technologies to produce. Beta-titanium is usually titanium combined with other metals that give it more flexibility and sometimes costs less than the 100% titanium frames Both of these are sometimes plated to add color.

Advantages: Very lightweight. Strong and durable. In some cases very flexible.

Disadvantages: Pure Titanium- None.  Beta-Titanium- If the metal mixture contains nickel, it is not necessarily hypoallergenic.

Hypoallergenic?- Pure= YES  Beta= Maybe

STAINLESS STEEL- A good alternative to titanium, stainless steel is also lightweight and less expensive than titanium. There are varying grades of stainless steel used. Some have higher amounts of chromium which provides corrosion resistance, and some contain no nickel which makes them hypoallergenic. Usually, but not always, the price would reflect the better quality stainless steel.

Advantages- Affordable, lightweight, corrosion resistant, and sometimes hypoallergenic.

Disadvantages- The price will usually reflect the quality.

Hypoallergenic?- Yes. (If it is of good quality like surgical stainless steel.)

Plastic Frame Materials-

CELLULOSE ACETATE PROPIONATE- We call it Acetate or Hand Made Acetate. A fairly lightweight plastic, this material is durable and can be made with interesting colors and even with a transparent look. This is a nylon based material.

Advantages- Can be thin. Cool colors and color combos. Hand made acetate can have laser etchings and cool treatments.

Disadvantages- Durable but heavier than other plastic and some metal materials.

Hypoallergenic?- Yes

INJECTION MOLDED PLASTIC- This is a fairly new type of material, or rather, process. Generally, left over production acetate and other plastics are used to injection mold eyeglass frames. This results in very lightweight hybrid plastic. The quality can vary from junky to something comparable to TR90.

Advantages- Lightweight. Cool colors and color combos. Most materials used are being recycled, reducing waste and resulting in a more Eco-friendly product. Rigid, not flexible, but holds the adjustment very well.

Disadvantages- Quality varies. Many of the frames in our Prime line are IMP and are terrific quality but I have seen other IMP frames that will break if you dropped them on the floor!

Hypoallergenic?- Yes. probably.

TR90- A new type of polymer plastic designed to hold it's adjustment.

Advantages- Lightweight, durable, flexible. Holds it's shape and last a long time.

Disadvantages- None.

Hypoallergenic?- Yes

ULTEM- Ultem is an amorphous thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) material which has extraordinary properties perfect for eyeglass frames.  

Advantages- Extremely flexible and extremely light weight. Most Ultem frames are as light or lighter than titanium metal. Ultem frames can have a thinner look than acetate and many can be had with nose pads.

Disadvantages- None

Hypoallergenic?- Yes

Additional Info:

In the last 30 years I have seen the quality of the materials used in glasses frames improve greatly. Most eyeglass frames made today are stronger, lighter weight, and have better color choices and style variety than what was available years ago. On the downside, there are companies out there selling frames of low quality and don't tell the consumer what they are made of. 

The price of eyeglass frames can run from cheap to astronomical. If you pay $4.99 for a frame you are getting junk. On the high end you have designer frames which can run $200 and up. Some designer frames can warrant a higher price tag by virtue of the frames being made with really high grade materials and having quality detailing, laser etchings, and quality metal hinges, and badges, or high end metals like gold. "Designer" or not, there are high quality frames available for everyone at every price point.

The frames we offer at Reading Glasses Etc.com all have to pass our test of being affordable and made of quality materials. We look at the overall workmanship, to determine whether it is worthy to be listed on our site. We do not sell "disposable eyewear" (I do not believe in the concept of "disposable") Also, we do not sell any frames from a well known monopolistic company starting with the letter "L". Our frames are sourced from small, private, (often family owned) companies. 



Steve Mower is a licensed dispensing Optician and creator of Mojo BluBlock Tints. Steve has over 30 years experience in the optical field. He has been a optical retail manager and has consulted on progressive lens development. Steve has been offering unique reading glasses solutions on-line since 2010. Steve is a member of Opticians Association of Virginia and Opticians Association of America.

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