Romans and royalty surrounded themselves with exquisite furniture crafted with layered veneers of tortoiseshell – renowned for its beautifully mottled appearance, durability, and organic warmth. It was during the reign of French King Louis X1V that tortoiseshell was first noted in eyewear. From the 17th century and surprisingly until the 1970s, fragile, beautiful turtles, including the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle – particularly prized for their shells and the distinctive pattern of overlapping scales – were ravaged. Found primarily in the world’s tropical oceans, the turtles gave their lives and shells, as they were not protected from the bourgeoning international trade. Finally, in 1973, the use of real tortoiseshell was universally banned.
The timeless beauty, durability, and demand for tortoiseshell remain unabated. Fortunately, sophisticated, advanced technologies and refined research have allowed designers to achieve amazing tortoiseshell variations with imagination, and unexpected colors and patterns – with no harm to sea turtles. Contemporary materials with tortoiseshell effects provide color and depth, with enhanced safety, style, comfort, and creative designs.
Among the latest eyewear releases to capture consumer preference and desire for tortoiseshell are designs by the chic, independent brand Lowercase. The Constance orchestrates a sleek interpretation of tortoiseshell in a special Limited Edition. The beautifully sculpted brow highlights the vintage-inspired cat-eye shape, crafted in Mazzucchelli tortoise and crystal acetate.
Tortoiseshell was already a popular eyewear choice in 1961, and then came the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Gamine Audrey Hepburn renewed a passion for tortoiseshell, wearing the superb Manhattan design by Oliver Goldsmith, with its glamorous, voluminous shape. Sixty years later, Manhattan continues to be a best-seller at Oliver Goldsmith. The demand for tortoiseshell frames was boosted to new heights, and the frame inspired and launched countless interpretations
Exciting, animated patterns with tortoiseshell are among many exciting and colorful choices at l.a. Eyeworks. Contemporary shaping, tailored edges, and playful pops of color are the apogee in Kola in Rockpool – a concert of flushed colors – silhouetted in High-Density acetate.
Approaching almost one hundred years of eyewear expertise, Lafont Paris has a long history of fashion and its sometimes-fickle modus operandi. What has remained as a universal favorite are customer cravings for tortoiseshell frames. The latest collection includes Hockney, which unites a classical tortoiseshell pattern in acetate with metal temples.
Suzy Glam celebrates tortoiseshell artistry crafted in a bold, striking acetate shape with a charismatic pattern. Studies Art in Havana is gracefully silhouetted with a sleek brow line.
The myriad possibilities of tortoiseshell eyewear appeal to all ages and portray a preppy, retro, timeless and smart look. With the many choices and opportunities now available, tortoiseshell is fun, super stylish, and a forever favorite.