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The History Of Spectacle Manufacture

by | Aug 12, 2020

Ever wondered how glasses are actually made? Read on to find out how!

A Short History

Ever wondered how glasses are actually made? We all know they’re a pretty marvellous invention, with many of us relying on them on a daily basis.

Early recorded evidence demonstrates that glasses first appeared near Pisa, Italy about the year 1286.

Of course back then, we knew little about the causes of visual defects and how to correct them. Back in earlier times, frames were made from any material people could source to hold a lens: wood, stone etc.

Glasses lenses were made of, yup you guessed it… glass! (Up until fairly recently in fact).

Nowadays we tend to use plastic lenses as they are much harder wearing, more durable, lighter in weight and are less prone to chipping/cracking (no one wants a cartoon style smashed pair of glasses in a million tiny pieces!)

In earlier days, lenses were ground, by hand, into the spectacle frame. These days, with most Optical practices making hundreds of pairs per day, hi tec machines are used to do this for us:

It’s not as simple as just pressing a button, a lot goes into the process, but this machine makes things a lot faster.

The machine has a ‘tracer’ which is like a little plastic arm which traces the inside rim of the frame. This shape is then saved into the machine’s settings and the grinding wheel cuts the lens to that specific shape.

 Without getting complicated – depending on whether a person is long or short sighted, a lens, in either a curved or a flat shape, is used to refract light in the direction needed to help light focus on the retina (the bullseye to great vision AKA the target!) 

Depending on the severity of the visual defect, the lens can vary in its power, ie a low or a high prescription. The higher the prescription, the steeper the curve of the lens, as it will need to bend the light more.

A spectacle lens comes in a round disc, uncut, and looks like this:

This is a glazing machine. The computer within the machine, traces the shape of the frame to be used, and the grinding wheel then cuts the lens to the correct shape. The machine uses water to remove excess lens material/dust and usually takes a couple of minutes per lens:

A lab technician will be highly trained in the use of these machines and will also need to enter specific measurements relevant to the patient’s pupil distance and height. Various techniques can be used in ensuring the lenses are tailored to each patient’s needs.

The finished, cut lens is inserted into the frame by hand and the quality of the frame and lenses checked before being dispatched to the spectacle wearer: 

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Since the rules around opticians advertising were relaxed the independents have been on the backfoot to the multiples.  Marketing for independent opticians is time consuming and what do you do?

You could hire a practice builder or digital marketer but there’s no guarantee that what they say will work.  I personally feel your time & money is better spent doing this yourself & using the people that work for you to their fullest.  You and your team know your customers, area and products best to be able to figure out what will work, what is possible and how to implement it.  It might require skilling up your current staff and paying them a bit of overtime but they will be best placed to help you grow your business.

Here are 5 ideas that I would recommend to any opticians struggling with this

  1. Incentivise referral schemes - find some “connectors”
  2. Social Media
  3. Google Ads (PPC)
  4. Google Custom Affiliated Audiences
  5. Networking & supporting local good causes

Incentivise Referral schemes - find yourself some connectors

You can’t compete with multiples when it comes to advertising but still the best advertising is word of mouth.  So when you know you’ve given a customer excellent service & he/she seems like a connector then give them an incentive to tell their family and friends.  We all know people are more likely to talk about bad experiences rather than the good so your team has to work out who to offer this to.  In this context connectors are people with a personality & credibility such that others listen to their advice and connectors love giving their advice to whoever that will listen.  As independents you get to know your customers so why not leverage this knowledge.

Social Media

For credibility reasons your practice should be on Facebook & you should be posting once a fortnight.  You could pay someone to create social media posts and then schedule them however these posts will be generic. It's faster and easier to take pictures of your own practice and create your own posts - it might be a bit rough but that’s fine. At least the customers will be seeing you, your practice environment, team members and products.

Make some posts about your practice/products, some about eye related stories in the press, some about what’s happening in your local area.

I would stay away from facebook ads because you’ll be paying for something that won’t move the needle much when it comes to attracting new customers.  When running ads think about the time it takes to set the ad campaign up and evaluate its results.

You can use to make more professional looking posts.  Canva is really easy to use and is free.  You can also schedule posts from Canva to both Facebook and Instagram.  You can also find content creators on freelancer websites like however I suggest upskilling existing staff.

Google Ads

You only pay if the customer actually clicks on them.  These customers are searching for your services in your local area.  Google Ads do take a bit of setting up but once its been done once then it's easy to manage them therefore little ongoing time investment will be required.

They’re simple & targeted so you’ll be able to judge whether they’re worthwhile for you quickly.  A £500 investment should be enough to test this idea out for a couple of months.  Google ad specialist can be found on freelancer websites.

Custom Affiliated Audiences

You can set up ad campaigns on google to target customers that have visited certain websites in a specific time period.  Again its a relatively cheap option as you only pay if they click on the ad. You could specify the URLs you want to target and then Google will do the rest. To set this up you’ll need a google ads specialist

Networking/Supporting Good Causes

Networking & being part of the local community is an extremely good way to reach out to more people & do some good at the same time.  The more good causes you support the more opportunities you will have to to leave an impression & meet more connectors.  Connectors are more common in activist groups.


Practice builders and growth specialists are good but you’re better off upskilling your own team for this.  This task is too important to leave to others.  You and your team need to figure out what’s going to work and then implement your own strategies.  Don’t worry if things don’t always work out - you’ll have more fun playing around with this & hopefully your team will benefit from the increased opportunities to learn.  Finally remember the 80:20 rule, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your marketing activities….if you can work out what that 20% is then just focus on that.


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