The hinge and the frame of men’s reading glasses were constructed from metal, wood or copper-wire. Since the very first models were bare lenses with a nose bridge, the wearer had to hold the glasses in place for as long as it was used. This early flaw in design severely limited the use of reading glasses, and it wasn’t until the early 1700s that a simple yet brilliant addition transformed the course of history of eyeglasses. The addition was that of two metal or wooden sidepieces running from the rim of the lenses on either side to the back of the ears. The sidebars were curled at the ends to hook around the ears and keep the glasses in place. This meant wearers didn’t have to constantly hold on to the glasses.
Before coming to the west however, a primitive version of eyeglasses was being used in monastic settings in parts of Asia. During those times the general population did not need or know how to read or write, and as a result, the need for eyeglasses wasn’t really there. However, since monks were the main scholars at the time, they spent a lot more time reading and writing, than did the average man on the street. These monks spend hours every day, hunched over texts and scrolls in dim conditions. As the monks grew older, their eyesight worsened and became a bane, restricting them from their routine reading and writing activities. And thus the need for a device that could correct poor vision was born.
The very first known eyeglasses, or rather devices to correct vision, were developed by elderly monks in parts of Asia around the year 1,000 AD. These devices entailed cutting in half pieces of transparent polished quartz. The polished quartz produced a magnifying effect when cut in a specific way. With time, the design underwent several modifications that bettered the performance of earlier versions. The monks discovered that there was a specific size a stone had to be to achieve the best magnifying effect, and that they didn’t have to cut exactly in half.