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French Empire gilt scissors-glasses c.1805

Scissors-glasses (or binocles-ciseaux) are eyeglasses, normally used to correct distance-vision, mounted on scissoring stems rather than on temple stems as modern eyeglasses are.

The invention of scissors-glasses solved the problem of the single lensed monocle or "quizzing glass", thought to be tiresome to the eye, by providing two lenses on a "Y" shaped frame. They usually had a ring in the end of the handle so that they could be worn on a ribbon or gold chain around the neck.

Replication medieval scissors glasses

Elegant examples, often gilded and highly ornamented, became common among the more fashionable members of French and German society in the second half of the 18th century. George Washington, Lafayette and Napoleon used scissors glasses. In French they are called binocles or binocles-ciseaux and the French scissor glasses are more delicate, ornate, and more of a fashion accessory than those made in other parts of Europe. The lorgnette may have developed from scissors-glasses.


  • Richard Corson, Fashions in eyeglasses, 1980
  • Valerie Steele, Encyclopedia of clothing and fashion, Volume 1, 2005