• About Séamus

    Originally from Northern Ireland, I came to England seventeen years ago. My first proper job was in an opticians and I have never left the industry since (apart from one month at a bespoke shirt makers). I have sixteen years experience of the eyewear industry and have a passion for handmade spectacles and sunglasses with an eye on innovation in design.

  • Optical Royalty.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    One of the effects of running a store that specialises in the unusual is that you get a reputation for doing things that no other optician will take on. Sometimes it is as simple as repairing a frame that was deemed unrepairable by a high street optician, “Perhaps I can show you something from our latest ranges instead Sir?” but more often it is putting new lenses in an old frame. Especially when the frame in question is as special as these.

    These frames date, I would guess from around the late forties if my trusty copy of “Spectacle Fitting and Optical Dispensing” – L.S. Sasieni © Hammond, Hammond & Co. Ltd. 1950, is to be believed.

    I was a little worried that these were real tortoise shell at first and it was the cause of many phone calls and emails to my elders and betters to get some advice. However the above mentioned tome let me know that they were in fact acetate.

    The frames were made by a company called “Dixey”, formerly C.W. Dixey. As is stated on the case in the photo on the right, opticians to the King. In fact they supplied every British monarch excluding the current one with spectacles from the mid 18th century. Add to that Prime Ministers and movie stars and you have a heritage that any brand would kill for. How it fell from grace must be an interesting story.

    Luckily, the current owner of the rights to the company realised the value of this heritage and has recently relaunched the brand with a collection inspired by the back catalogue of the Dixey brand. In fact, if you were at our party last month you might even have spoken to him. Some time back he showed me the file he had on the history of the company and the names that had been on their books; Winston Churchill, Peter Sellers, Royals from all over the world.

    As you can see, one of the pairs folds up very compactly but both feature beautiful brass joints in a metal to metal configuration. Pinned joints of course and the folding one has the thinnest joint pins I have ever seen and I would not like to be tasked with finding replacements should it ever become necessary. As it is, putting new lenses in was not an easy task. Tortoiseshell or vintage plastic it matters not. Both are very brittle and real care must be taken. Lots of heat to soften the material.

    When I was taking out the old lenses, I noticed that one was facing the wrong way and I put this down to a mistake by the person who originally put them in but as I was about to insert the second new lens, something struck me. What if there was a good reason for the lens to go in the wrong way on one side.

    Suddenly it hit me. If the convex surface of both lenses face out, when you fold them in half the bulge of the lens will prevent it from slipping in behind the other. Now the concave surfaces face each other and it closes neatly. Success snatched from the jaws of defeat yet again.

    So if you are from London or indeed The Provinces, and have a need for eyewear good enough for royalty, you could do worse than choose C.W. Dixey. You may even see them here one day if enough of you ask for it.

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