Glossary of Terms

French silver temple specs, 1812
French silver temple specs, 1812
Large ring finials extending below, fourth quarter 18th century
Large ring finials extending below, fourth quarter 18th century
Large circular finials on temple specs 1740's
Large circular finials on temple specs 1740's
Heart-shaped final, fourth quarter 18th century
Heart-shaped final, fourth quarter 18th century
Small circular finials, circa 1800, Peabody Essex Museum
Small circular finials, circa 1800, Peabody Essex Museum

This page should clarify any confusion regarding terms. Please refer to it often. The significant majority of the definitions* have been taken from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company Adapted and reproduced by permission from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

*Abalone n. any of the various large edible marine gastropods of the genus Haliotis, having an ear-shaped shell with a row of holes along the outer edge. The colorful, pearly interior of the shell is often used for making ornaments; also called ear shell.
*Astigmatism   n. a visual defect in which the unequal curvature of one or more refractive surfaces of the eye, usually the cornea, prevents light rays from focusing clearly at one point on the retina, resulting in blurred vision.
*Baleen   n. See whalebone

n. a semi-precious gem that was used for making some early lenses; a water-white ground rock crystal which had magnifying effects; brillen and bril were derived from this word.

Besicles n. derived from the word beryllus, also a modification of Berycles (beryl circles), ; this is an early French term used for bow spectacles when they started to make them in metal; was used before spectacles came to be called lunettes which itself was derived from Lune (Moon) therefore became Lunettes (small moons).
*Bifocal adj. 1. having two different focal lengths.
2. having one section that corrects for distant vision and another that corrects for near vision, as an eyeglass lens.
*Concave adj. curved like a section of the inner surface of a sphere
*Convex adj. having a surface or boundary that curves or bulges outward, as the exterior of a sphere
*Chatelaine n. a clasp or chain worn at the waist for holding keys, scissors, spectacles, or a watch, etc.
*Crystal Crystal n. a mineral, especially a transparent form of quartz, having a crystalline structure, often characterized by external planar faces.
Dowel screw n. early form of screw occasionally seen in the hinges of 18th century steel or circa 1800 brass spectacles (most commonly noted projecting upwards on one side while projecting downwards on the other hinge).
Draw n. the number of tubes or extensions in a spyglass or miniature telescope.
*Eye bath n. a small cup with a rim contoured to fit the socket of the eye, used for applying a liquid medicine or wash to the eye; also called eyecup. (This the English term.)
*Eyecup   n. see eyebath
*Eyeglass   n. 1. a single lens in a pair of glasses; a monocle. 2. eyeglasses glasses for the eyes.
Fan Spyglass n. a decorative fan with a miniature spyglass attached usually at the pivot.

We believe that the largest collection is at the British Optical Association museum in London and the second largest is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

*Finial n. an ornamental terminating part; final.
*Hallmark n. a mark used in the England to stamp gold and silver articles that meet established standards of purity.
*Horn n. one of the hard, usually permanent structure projecting from the head of certain mammals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, or antelopes, consisting of a bony core covered with a sheath of keratinous material.
*Ivory n. a hard, smooth, yellowish-white substance composed primarily dentine that forms the tusks of the African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana).
*Lorgnette n. a pair of spectacles or opera glasses with a short handle: a lorgnon
*Magnifier n. one that magnifies, especially a magnifying glass.
Masterpiece spectacles n. elaborate and elegant showpieces which displayed the skill and proficiency of The master who wanted to obtain “freedom” and then be admitted into the Guild of Nuremberg in the 17th century; usually the bridge was “worked open”
Mauchlineware n. useful and decorative items crafted from the wood of a sycamore tree originally produced in the little Scottish town of Mauchline; they frequently had transfer scenes and their peak production was from 1860 - 1880
*Monocle n. an eyeglass for one eye.
Monocle gallery n. the extension which gives the monocle stability in the front of the eye socket and prevents the eyelashes from touching the posterior lens surface
*Mother-of-pearl n. the pearly, iridescent internal layer of certain mollusk shells, used to make decorative objects
Nuremberg spectacles n. made by “Leonischen Draht” (copper silver-coat). The frame is constructed of one piece of metal and the lenses are frequently of bad quality (with bubbles). The lenses are held in the frame with a little piece of wire.
*Pebble   n. clear colorless quartz; rock crystal. (It's much harder than man-made optical glass.)
*Pince-nez n. eyeglasses clipped to the bridge of the nose.
Pseudohallmarks n. ones which are not authentic, like the ones occasionally seen on brass spectacles
Quizzing glass n. a single lens on a hand held stem which has been made into a fashion accessory; quizzer
*Rivet n. a metal bolt or pin having a head on one end, inserted through aligned holes in the pieces to be joined and then hammered on the plain end so as to form a second head.
Sable n. “covered with sand”; describes the tiny opaque and translucent glass French beadwork used on some costume accessories and decorative objects. Probably originated in one or two 18th century Parisian workshops; (fewer than 400 objects are known in the world today and almost 200 are at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA.) Photograph Copyright 2004 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Scarlett’s focus mark n. a number scratched on the surface of the periphery of an 18th century lens to denote its strength. This was the earliest system for demonstrating the graduated lens powers.
Scissors glasses n. held in front of the face and formed of two lenses with a hinged handle; the lenses commonly fold down into the handle which thus becomes the case as well
*Shagreen n. the rough hide of a shark or ray (Family Dasyatidae) covered with numerous bony denticles. Shagreen named after a Parisian leather craftsman at the 18th century French court, Jean-Claude Galuchat. He began to fashion sting-ray for Louis XV and members of his court, applying it to objects that had never before been made – toilette items, perfume flacons, sewing and snuffboxes, wig-cases and the like, and in the way that brought out its inherent beauty and mystery.
*Spectacles   n. a pair of glasses. Some people believe this term refers only to glasses with side pieces or temples while the term eyeglasses refers to nose spectacles; however the two terms in modern times have become accepted as fully interchangeable.
*Spyglass n. a small telescope
*Tartan n. any of numerous textile patterns consisting of stripes of varying widths and colors crossing at right angles against a solid background, each forming a distinctive design worn by the members of a Scottish clan.
*Tortoiseshell n. the mottled, horny, translucent, brownish covering of the carapace of certain tortoises or turtles, especially the Hawksbill, used to make combs, jewelry, and other articles; species Eretmochelys imbricate.
*Trifocal n. having three focal lengths; having one section that corrects for distant vision, a second section that corrects for middle vision, and a third that corrects for near vision, as an eyeglass lens.
*Votive adj. given or dedicated in fulfillment of a vow or pledge; a votive offering ex votos.
*Whalebone n. the elastic, horny material forming the fringed plates that hand from the upper jaw of baleen whales and strain plankton from the water.

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