Horn-Rimmed and Tortoise Shell: What's the difference?

We're often asked what makes one set of eyeglasses "horn-rimmed" and another "tortoise shell". As you may have already guessed, the origins of both eyewear style names come from the materials originally used to make them: animal horns and shells. Prior to being used for eye frames, these materials were valued for their unique decorative qualities and durability within necklaces and other jewelry. As eyewear, they first came into use as an alternative to metal rims in the very late 1800's, and became popular when silent film comedian Harold Lloyd made them a signature part of his on-screen persona.

Bicycles frames are an updated version of the frames Harold Lloyd made famous in his silent films. 

Authentic tortoise shell and horn-rimmed glasses remained popular through the 1920s, but they proved to be prone to breaking, especially after being in sunlight for extended periods. As plastics came into more common use in the 1940s and 50s, they supplanted tortoise shell as a more flexible and durable eyeglass frame, and the tortoise shell/horn-rim style exploded in popularity.

Though the names are generally synonymous and the materials use to produce them are the same, horn-rimmed glasses are generally thought of as having thicker rims and being in the beige, brown, umber or dark brown range, while tortoise shell frames are considered thinner and have a more colorful range.

Regardless of the style name, you'll fine plenty of beautiful horn-rimmed and tortoise shell frames in our collection.