Sunglasses have become a modern commodity. Almost everyone owns a pair of sunglasses. Seeing someone with sunglasses on is not a rare sight. But where did sunglasses come from? How did they become so popular? You may find that the history of sunglasses is really interesting and one worth learning.

Let’s start with the earliest recorded instance of sunglasses. In some cases, the first pair of sunglasses were owned by Emperor Nero of Rome (54 – 68 AD). His sunglasses was a hollowed out emerald that he would hold up to his eyes while viewing gladiator events. While some argue that the emerald was used to correct his vision while viewing these events, some say that this emerald was really used to shade the emperor’s eyes on bright and sunny days.

The next record of sunglasses in the world takes place in China during the 12th century. Mainly used by the rich, these sunglasses were made out of a frame containing a smoky quartz slab that the user would have to hold over their eyes. The quartz sunglasses did not correct vision nor did it protect the eyes from harmful UV rays. However, it did help reduce glare in the eyes. The sunglasses were also used by judges to mask their emotions while a trial took place.


James Ayscough was an English optician during the 18th century. Ayscough believed that tinted lens colors like blue and green would help improve sight. Although he was not intentionally trying to create a new type of sunglasses, his work with tinted lenses is said to be the precursor to modern sunglasses.

Lastly, we have the sunglasses that we know of today. Modern sunglasses started appearing in the 20th century. In 1929 Sam Foster started selling modernized sunglasses in Atlantic City, NJ. Thanks to actors in Hollywood wearing them, the popularity of sunglasses skyrocketed within one year! Thus by the 1930’s, wearing sunglasses became a national trend that has stuck around to this day.

Over time, the technology of sunglasses has vastly improved. Today there are sunglasses that have your prescription incorporated right in the lens as well as sunglasses that have UV protection! Tons of people use sunglasses and they really are a modern commodity.  With over 50 brands and hundreds of designs in store, Roslyn Eye Centre is your place to pick up a pair of stylish sunglasses.

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