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Frame Types

Selecting a frame can be overwhelming for some people.  Whether you shop online or in a store you'll likely be confronted with a seemingly never ending amount of options.  Have no fear; our guide will make it easy to understand the variety of frames types so you can select the best frame for you.

As you scroll through the options, keep in mind that frames are typically defined by the primary material used on the frame front.

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metal frame

Metal Frame

Metal frames, aka wire frames, are made in materials such as Stainless Steel, Surgical Steel, Titanium, Beta Titanium, Aluminum, Gold and other metal combinations.  Here are some common characteristics of metal frames:

  • Adjustable Nosepads

  • Thin Profile

  • Light Weight (Depending on the material)


If you're looking for a low profile, light weight frame then metal is a good option.  Don't write them off because of the nosepads, when adjusted properly, nosepads are your best friend.  They keep frames from slipping down your nose, they allow the frames to sit further from your face so your eyelashes don't touch and they lift the glasses so you have more lens to look through.

Some manufacturers get real creative with metal so there is no shortage of unique styles and color.  Add the great selection of available metals and you'll be sure to find something to suit your style.


I'll be honest, nosepads aren't for everyone.  Because they are adjustable that means they can get out of adjustment.  When this happens the nosepads can become uncomfortable and even hurt.  If you're hard on glasses, you'll need to get them adjusted more often than you'd like.

Nickel is a common metal used in "cheap" metal frames and data shows that 10-20% of people are allergic to it.  Make sure to verify the type of metal used if you elect to go this way.


Plastic Frames

Plastic frames are made of materials such as Acetate, Ultra Dense Acetate, Optyl, Ultem, SPX, Nylon, Polycarbonate and more.  There is an almost uncountable amount of color combinations and styles.  Here are a few common characteristics of plastic frames:

  • Most do no have nosepads

  • More color options than metal

  • Bold, low profile and everything in between


There are many advantages to plastic frames and I like to use "low maintenance" to summarize them.  They typically don't have nosepads, they don't have as many weak points as metal frames and if you get a good quality plastic they will hold their adjustment quite well.

Another big advantage to plastic frames is that the color doesn't normally chip like it can on some metals.


Since there are usually no nosepads, the way the bridge fits at the beginning will be the way it fits for the life of the frame unless you modify the bridge by adding nosepads.  This will void any manufacturers warranty so don't do this unless you have no other choice.

If a plastic bridge is too wide they will slip and the full weight of the frame is placed on the top of the wearer bridge.  This can be annoying and uncomfortable.

Some low quality plastics lose their adjustment quite easily.  The whole "low maintenance" thing will not apply to poorly made plastic frames.



Rimless frames, aka 3-Piece frames, are commonly found in materials such as Titanium, Beta-Titanium, Steel and in some cases plastic.  Here are a few characteristics of rimless frames:

  • Almost always have nosepads

  • Can be ultra light-weight

  • Lens shapes can be customized



The most common types of rimless frames focus on being light-weight and low profile.  Frames made with Titanium or Beta Titanium are extremely light and it's not uncommon for them to last over 2-3 years without breaking.

The best rimless frames are made by companies that are rimless specialist.  By this I mean they focus most of their resources on developing mounting methods, frame materials and hinge designs that are often patented to that one company.


The best rimless glasses tend to cost upwards of $400-$500.  This can be more than some people are willing to spend.  Good quality rimless glasses should be considered a long term investment.

Almost all rimless frames are mounted via drilling through the lenses.  These drill points can eventually lead to stress crack or even a broken lens.


Half Rimless

There are a few variations of half-rim frames but the most common version has a frame across the top of the lenses and a thin nylon string beneath the lens.  This type of frame requires the lenses to be grooved in order to accommodate the nylon string.  Here are a few common characteristics of half-rim frames:

  • Almost always come with nosepads

  • Most are made out of metal

  • Lenses are mounted through a groove instead of a typical bevel



Half-rim frames can be a happy medium for people that want a low-profile and lightweight frame without having to go complete rimless.  When lenses are fitted properly, you can expect very little maintenance because there are no screws needed to keep the lenses in place.


Half-rim frames can be a little tricky to adjust for the novice optician because they require a different approach.  Often times the lenses need to be removed in order to bend the frame into alignment and DIYers may struggle on their own.

Because the lenses require a groove, a chip resistant lens material may be required and not optional.

Organic Materials


For those looking for something really outside the box, organic materials may be for you.  Here are a few:

  • Wood

  • Bamboo

  • Cork



Whether you care about the environment, want a story to go along with your glasses or just looking to try something different, organic materials are a unique option.


Organic materials can be difficult to adjust because they may not be easy to bend with just a little bit of heat.  I wouldn't recommend making any adjustments at home or without going to an optician that has experience with organic materials.

The process of producing and manufacturing eyewear made of organic materials is far more extensive than typical metals and plastics and thus the cost to the consumer is higher.

Worth Mentioning:

Though not considered organic, there are frames being made with all sorts of recycled and repurposed materials.  Everything from recycled aluminum cans, skateboard decks, vinyl records and much more.

Buffalo Horn is another material that some companies have chosen to use.  These frames tend to run in the thousands of dollars and are not to be trusted with anyone that doesn't sell it.

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