Author: Matthew Pennel, Optician
Frame Materials: When and how they matter (Part 1: Titanium)
You may have heard a few terms thrown around about the kind of metal used in wire-rimmed eyeglass frames. Monel, you may or may not be familiar with, but Stainless Steel and Titanium are sure to ring a bell. Stainless Steel and Titanium are higher quality metals and do make the price of a frame go up, but you may wonder what the actual quantified difference between these materials is. Does it actually affect how your glasses feel or function?
In some cases, material will matter more than others. Titanium will hold up the best, and is the lightest weight metal that eyeglasses are made of. This makes it ideal for the customer who demands the lightest weight and requires high durability at the same time. Titanium is 40% lighter than Stainless Steel and 50% lighter than Monel, featuring the highest strength-to weight ratio of any eyeglass metal. It is highly corrosion-resistant and is biocompatible, meaning it is not harmful to living tissue and is hypoallergenic. It is often used in medical implants because of its biocompatibility, which also makes it a fantastic material for those with metal allergies. There are also a few alloys of Titanium that you may see printed on the non-prescription demo lens or inside the temple on some frames.
There are numerous places Titanium can be sourced from, but the very purest and highest quality Titanium comes from Japan, which is why it is a favorite source for some of the independent frame lines we carry, such as Orgreen and State. Titanium can produce the lightest weight frames due to the minimal amount that is necessary to create a durable frame, and for this reason it is also the best choice for a drill-mounted rimless frame. It is an exceptionally solid material which retains its shape exceedingly well and holds its adjustment longer than other metals for this reason. A titanium frame is a fantastic choice that can be reused for many years due to its durability and resistance to corrosion. While Titanium is naturally a silver or gray color, it can be wrapped in vibrant colors to create a look that will stand out from the crowd.
There is one Titanium alloy that became quite popular over the last few decades, especially among people who demand their eyewear withstand nearly any amount of punishment. It goes by a couple of names with some minor differences in the composition but very similar properties. We are talking about Memory Metal, also referred to by the name brand of Flexon. Sometimes this material is used only in one part of a frame, sometimes most of the frame is made of it. One of the properties this material has is the ability to “remember” its original shape. In other words, smush it underneath a helmet, step on it, twist it 180 degrees, and see it pop right back to its original shape. Memory Metal and Flexon are practically impossible to adjust, so it is not generally used for every part of the frame to ensure a good fit on the wearer. The temple tips, which are designed to curve behind your ear, are usually made of standard Titanium or another metal so they may be adjusted to provide a good fit. Nose pad arms are also usually made of standard Titanium or another metal for the same reason.
Most typically, frames that contain Flexon or Memory Metal will have it in the bridge of the frame, often distinguishable by the thinner cylinder of metal going into a larger cylinder before it attaches to the eyewire of the frame. Another common location of these materials is in the temples of your frame. Flexon or Memory Metal in either or both of these locations will negate the need for a spring hinge, as the material is naturally flexible, providing greater comfort and further reducing the weight of your frame. Flexon or Memory Metal are typically thin, round cylinders when used in frame construction, though they occasionally are made into more unique shapes.
Beta Titanium is different in that it does retain plenty of flexibility, but it is actually adjustable as well. Beta Titanium typically requires a solid amount of steady pressure over a longer period of time than other frame materials in order to get the desired result. Because they require more pressure to adjust, they hold that adjustment very well, which means you won’t have to visit your Optician as frequently for realignment of your frames. Because it can be adjusted, Beta Titanium can provide a more customizable fit than Flexon or Memory metal if used in the temples, and it is also more commonly made into a variety of temple shapes, including plate temples. Plate temples are generally flat, though some have a little texture or other design elements, and can be cut into any shape for a variety of styles. When properly cared for, it can outlast Flexon and Memory Metal frames, though it does not have the ability to be twisted and stepped on without needing to be adjusted back to shape.
To condense everything above, Titanium is a fantastic frame material which offers the best balance between weight and durability, is hypoallergenic, and corrosion resistant. All varieties of Titanium are incredibly durable and frames made from any of them will last for quite a long time. A couple of Titanium alloys have specific properties that lend themselves to be especially suitable for particular needs. When a frame that can handle being smashed and thrown around is needed, Memory Metal or Flexon will handle it extremely well. If more flexibility than standard titanium is desired along with a higher degree of adjustability than the previous choice, then Beta Titanium is your material. For the highest stability in shape, Standard Titanium is an excellent choice. Standard Titanium frame fronts can also be joined with Beta Titanium temples in order to get the maximum benefit from both materials, as can be experienced with our Orgreen Titanium line of frames.
Come in to experience the difference of our Titanium frames for yourself at First Sight Eye Care, located at 2126 1st Ave S in St. Pete.