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SUNGLASSES LENS MATERIALS GUIDE: 
AND WHY WE USE MINERAL GLASS

barberini mineral glass sunglasses lenses

We use Barberini mineral glass lenses in our sustainable sunglasses. 

When designing our sustainable eyewear, we knew that alongside the sunglasses frames being made from recycled fishing nets, one of the most important factors to consider was the quality of the lens, but why do we use Barberini mineral glass lenses in our eyewear?

We reviewed lenses from a huge range of manufacturers but found that Italian eyewear producer Barberini, famous for producing the world’s most technical glass lenses, couldn’t be beaten for their super lightweight mineral glass lenses (just 1.8mm thick!), their optical experience, and their triple-layer anti-reflection coating.

We pay over four times more per lens than comparable high-end plastic lenses, making our mineral glass lenses the most expensive component of our recycled sunglasses! We’re not aware of any other brands that use Barberini lenses with a price tag below £250, let alone below £100 like our eyewear ranges, but what makes these lenses in particular so special?

Here’s a breakdown on the three key reasons why we believe in paying so much for these mineral glass lenses over plastic ones, and why they make our sunglasses ideal for those who enjoy spending their time by the beach!  

OPTICAL QUALITY

Waterhaul harlyn aqua sunglasses with mineral glass lenses

Mineral glass provides far greater optical clarity than plastic.

Mineral glass has by far the greatest optical clarity of all lens materials. There’s a reason why photographers use glass lenses: plastic mediums disperse and distort light.

The optical clarity of a glasses lens is measured with an Abbe value, the measure of a lenses dispersion of light, with lower numbers representing greater dispersion and unwanted chromatic aberration. Chromatic Aberration is an image distortion due to a lens being unable to focus all the different colour wavelengths of light onto the same focal point, often resulting in a purple or green fringe around the edge of the subject you’re looking at. The Abbe Value of our lenses is 59, vastly exceeding the polycarbonate (plastic lens) value of 32.

This clarity not only gives Waterhaul eyewear crisp detail, but it also gives the wearer the feeling of true vision, and not the feeling of ‘I’m looking through a layer of plastic’, which improves eye comfort and reduces eye strain, particularly when they’re worn for long durations.

SCRATCH RESISTANCE

waterhaul scratch resistant sunglasses in sand on beach

Our mineral glass lenses have been chemically hardened to be extra scratch-resistant.

Waterhaul sunglasses are designed for the beach, which means lots of exposure to sand – the mortal enemy of most sunglasses!

Our chemically hardened, polarised lenses are more scratch resistant than any form of plastic lens, even those with ‘anti-scratch’ coatings’ by a huge margin. Given that glass and sand are both comprised of silica, this isn’t hugely surprising! 

To clarify, we're not saying that our sunglasses are immune to scratches, but four years later we still have some of our first prototypes in daily use, and with our beachgoing lifestyles, this definitely wouldn’t be possible with plastic lenses! Our lenses also exceed all international impact resistance tests.

SUSTAINABILITY

Glass is a much more sustainable lens material than plastic.

While you would be right to assume that alongside our sunglasses frames made from recycled fishing nets would be well paired with lenses made from recycled plastic, the technology for truly recycled plastic lenses has not yet been developed! But this is a field we’re watching closely.

Glass however, is infinitely recyclable, which when combined with its scratch-resistant properties, gives it a much longer lifespan than a plastic lens. All lenses are initially produced as rectangles or circular disks, which are then cut to fit the frames. This process naturally results in waste as the lenses are trimmed down, which isn’t a concern for glass lenses, unlike plastic ones which will produce harmful microplastics.

We’re incredibly proud of our lenses and believe that Waterhaul customers come for the impact of our recycled plastic frames, but stay customers for life due to our lenses. Learn more about Waterhaul lenses here.

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