Eyeglass hinges typically feature screws, allowing them to open and close smoothly and easily. However, if your eyeglass frames rely on screws, you may have to invest time and money continually repairing and replacing the tiny components. An alternative frame design uses a "flex hinge" that requires no small parts to operate.
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Screwless eyeglass frames use flexible hinges that easily detach and reattach by hand. The temple portion of the glasses meets the rim with a uniquely-shaped interlocking joint. If pressure is applied to the temple portion, the two pieces simply detach instead of breaking and requiring repair. On some models, even the lenses are not held within their frames by any kind of screw, but with a special locking clip. Because the joint comes apart easily, some models even offer premarked lines so you can cut down the temple end-tips, yourself.
Modern screwless eyeglass frame technology is relatively recent. Historically, eyeglasses have not always featured screws; however, most of the screwless styles of the past also forwent any hinge mechanism. Instead, those short of sight would use simple hand-held or pincer styles, that did not wrap around the ears. In parts of Asia, cord or rope would hold the glasses to the wearer's head. As recently as 2002, Japanese researchers received a patent for screwless eyeglass frames using tightly looped, thin wire to connect detachable temple pieces to the rimmed lens pieces.
If you spend a good deal of money on frame repair or replacement because of problems with your frame's screw and hinge mechanisms, you may recoup some of those costs by investing in a pair of screwless frames. Like other kinds of glasses, screwless frames vary in cost. A few lines specialise in screwless technology, such as Framescape and Micro Tech, and sell frames through online retailers. As of October 2010, Framescape's frames range from £107 to £156. Styles include all the typical frame variations, with fully framed, partially framed or frameless lenses and either metal or plastic (zylonite) material. Micro Tech's frames run from £65.9 to £146. Henry Jullien Lunetier, a high-end frame designer, sells screwless styles made from 14-karat-gold tubes filled with base metals. One sunglass design also features a thin coating of real gold over the lenses. The Henry Jullien website does not list prices and sells exclusively through opticians, calling to mind the adage: "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."
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