by Lucy Ross December 05, 2018 6 min read

Single glass lens with light passing through it

Glass lenses enquiry page



Can you still get glass lenses?

Old fashioned or not, glass has class.

Since their earliest conception, optical lenses were always made this way as it was the only naturally suitable material at the time.

Scratch resistant and with a high refractive index, glass was the go-to for optics since as early as the 13th century. (We’re going way back on this one folks.)

Today, you can still have glass lenses fitted to your spectacle frame. Arguably, they give the best visual acuity and are far more durable against scratches.

Despite their extra weight, many people still prefer glass lenses compared to plastic ones.

It really depends on your prescription and personal preferences.

Contrary to their beginnings, however, the majority of optical lenses are now made using plastic.


Due to the effects of WWII, materials such as glass became incredibly scarce during this war-stricken era. As an alternative, the emerging post-war polymer industry provided suitable alternatives.

As a material, plastic was becoming increasingly abundant. New versions of plastics began to displace many materials.

Glass optical lenses were no exception.





Types of lenses for glasses

Two example of glass lenses | One concave (left) one convex (right)


Types of lenses for glasses 

There are various types of optical lenses that can be fitted to your glasses frame.

Depending on your budget and prescription, you can choose from an array of lens materials and coatings to make your spectacles exactly the way you want them.

Whether you’re buying prescription glasses online or via your local optician, your choice of lens materials might not always be made available to you. For people with low to mild prescriptions, your lens-type mightn’t be a big deal.

If, however, you have a particularly strong prescription and require bespoke lenses, your lens-type can play a much larger role.


Types of optical lenses




Glass lenses were the first material ever to be used to make optical lenses. Until the early 1900’s, glass was the most prevalent material for optical lenses because of it’s clarity and high refractive index. Whilst glass lenses have the highest scratch resistance, it is also is susceptible to shattering. This makes it a great choice for general wear and tear but not so great for heavy impacts activities such as sport.


Polycarbonate lenses are known for their high level of impact resistance and can be exceptionally thin. These lenses are well-suited for active wearers who may put more physical demands on their spectacles. Children and sportspeople are prone to this type of lens for it’s forgiving properties and inherent UV protection.


CR39 lenses are nearly half the weight of glass and have the highest uncoated resistance to scratches amongst plastic lens types. (That’s why we fit them to almost all of our orders for prescription glasses online). This ubiquitous lens material is also very compatible with lens tinting making it a good lens material for prescription sunglasses.


Trivex lenses are very lightweight and are comparably more resilient to polycarbonate. This makes them an excellent alternative to polycarbonate as they are a less-heavy lens choice. Trivex lenses are commonly found in safety spectacles for their durable tendencies but cost slightly more than polycarbonate iterations.


High-index plastic lenses resulted from the increase of demand for very thin, lightweight lenses. The name stems from their high-refractive-index which means they could be cut thinner than other lens types. This makes them very thin and resultantly, very lightweight. If your prescription is less than +2 or more than -2, you won’t benefit from high index lenses.


Aspheric lenses can have more complex and undulating areas of curvature. Aspheric lenses tend to have flatter curves which makes them more visually appealing than conventionally curved ‘spheric’ lens types. These lenses are pour-moulded at high volume and can be made from polycarbonate, CR39 or high-index plastic.


Photochromic lenses are characterised by their ability to react to varying strengths of UV light. In brightly lit environments, they automatically darken to provide better visibility. In darker environments, photochromic lenses will emulate normal plastic lenses. They can be made from either polycarbonate or glass and are best suited for people who are sensitive to light.


Polarized lenses are a superior sunglasses-specific lens which are designed to reduce glare and improve visual clarity. This is achieved by layers of filters that control reflected light, making them extremely popular for use in water sports. Reflection from the water’s surface tends to travel horizontally which is then filtered out by polarized lenses. An optically superior lens, polarized lenses are now available in our polarised sunglasses collection.



Young brunette female sitting on factory floor wearing blue spectacle frame


Which is better plastic or glass lenses?

Depending on your lifestyle, budget and how you treat your glasses, this choice is really up to you.

The main consideration when comparing plastic or glass lenses is weight and thickness. Your prescription has a large role to play here so we’ve listed the pros and cons to help clear things up.


The benefits of glass lenses



Materialistically, glass has a higher refractive index than plastic.

Because glass is much denser, it can be cut thinner to create the same degree of optical correction.

This superior refractive index is especially popular for those who with low-strength prescriptions less than less than a +3/-3. Glass simply looks less cumbersome aesthetic than plastic equivalents when fitted into your glasses frame.

Most notably, lenses made from glass have a good degree of social currency. They have a reputation for being higher in quality and carry retro notions of being made to last. A rare thing in today’s throw away culture.


What better way to see world with a well-made pair of glasses with unbeatably good lenses?


At the end of the day, glass lenses for spectacles are an advisable choice if you want a high-quality lens-type. They are superbly scratch resistant, even more so than the hard-multi-coatings (HMC) on plastic lens types, which makes them an arguably superior lens.


A shattered glass spectacle lens



Glass, however, is far heavier than plastic at nearly twice the weight.

Famously, these lenses also have the capability of shattering, which is a consideration if you lead an active or demanding lifestyle.

Furthermore, glass lenses can get heavy, quick.

Disproportionately, strong prescriptions made from glass lenses can be very heavy as they become thicker and thicker. The bygone term for “milk bottle lenses” springs to mind. Old fashioned lenses with a strong corrective power could easily weigh more than the glasses frame itself.

If you regularly play sport, the fragility and weight of glass pose plastic lenses as a safer, more forgiving lens option. If you want a lightweight frame for intense physical scenarios, sports glasses with CR39 or high-index lenses are clearly a better option here.


How much do glass lenses cost?

Depending on your prescription, glass spectacle lenses can vary in price quite dramatically. 

To enquire with us about the best progressive eyeglass lenses, click here.


Which is better plastic or glass lenses



Plastic lenses are suitable for almost every prescription and wearer.

Due to their wider scope of applications, they’re often considered as the best lenses for glasses.

Choosing between the various plastic types is usually determined by your prescription and budget. If your prescription is stronger than a -2/+2 you’ll tend to require lens thinning.

High index plastic lenses are preferable for prescriptions like these. as they can be thinned-down to make the best progressive eyeglasses lenses which will be thin, lightweight and easy to wear.

In terms of cost, plastic lenses can widely vary depending on your prescription. As a rule of thumb, single vision and ‘stock’ lenses are generally cheaper because they are less intricate than bifocal, trifocal, and progressive lens types.

If you require speciality lenses that require thinning, these are no longer ‘stock’ and tend to be more costly.


The benefits of plastic lenses for glasses



Plastic has a lower refractive index than glass.

Less dense than glass, plastic has to be thicker to create the same strength of dioptre. This makes plastic lenses typically bulkier than glass equivalents but can overcome by the fact that plastic is lighter in weight. High index plastics are also a good way to reduce the thickness of your lenses but this will cost you more.

With regard to scratch resistance, unprotected plastic lenses are easily scratched. To combat this, various coatings such as anti-scratch (HC) and anti-reflective (AR) can be added to your lens order. These coatings are applied to the surface of the lenses to increase their durability and overall aesthetic.

At Banton Frameworks, we offer anti-scratch and anti-glare coatings as standard with all our lens orders.

See our lens pricing here.



Tortoise glasses frame on a white table beside lenses

Where can I get new lenses for my glasses?

Otherwise referred to as “glazing”, you can get new lenses for your glasses from us here at Banton Frameworks.

We offer this service to you for all of our men's and women's glasses models for single vision, bifocal, varifocal and reading lenses types.

Whichever type of lens you are looking for, your lenses are cut and edged off-site by our UK based lens provider. This remote service keeps the prices of your lenses competitively low and lets us get on with manufacturing our spectacle and sunglasses frames. 






Lucy Ross: co-founder

If you'd like to calculate your lens cost, you should check out our easy-to-use lens menu. With your prescription to-hand, simply enter your details to work out the cost of your lenses with us.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the lenses we offer, click on my avatar image (top left) and drop me an email.

Please share this article if you found it useful!


Lucy Ross
Lucy Ross

Co-founder of Banton Frameworks.

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