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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1937 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tortoiseshell and metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by A. Oliver Goldsmith, in memory of his father, Charles Oliver Goldsmith

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

These spectacles date from the mid-1930s. They are made from tortoiseshell, a rare and difficult material to work with. Tortoises are now an endangered species but at the time these glasses were made, their shells were very popular for spectacles. The frames were cut from a single piece of shell. For manufacture, the plates of which a tortoise's shell is made up are removed, then laminated together to get a block to cut from. This block is then boiled in cottonseed oil to make the material pliable, and then stretched out onto dowels. When set, the tortoiseshell can be cut into a desired shape.

Philip Oliver Goldsmith, a salesman for a small optical firm, founded his eyewear company in London in 1926. In 1935 his son Charles Oliver Goldsmith entered the firm with the aim of making glasses a fashion item. After the Second World War, from the company’s offices in Poland Street, his sons A. Oliver and Ray Goldsmith built upon the company’s reputation for attention-grabbing designs and solicited celebrity endorsement for their products. Key clients included Lord Snowdon, Princess Grace of Monaco and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Physical description

Tortoiseshell glasses with a round eye shape and curved metal side ends.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1937 (made)


Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tortoiseshell and metal


Height: 4.5 cm, Width: 11.5 cm

Object history note

Registered File number 1990/200.
These glasses form part of a design archive of the British eyewear company Oliver Goldsmith. The archive, which consists of approximately 70 glasses from the 1930s to the late 1980s, was donated by A. Oliver Goldsmith, grandson of the founder, and chief designer at the firm. A. Oliver Goldsmith donated the material to the V & A in memory of his father Charles "Oliver" Goldsmith.

Descriptive line

Tortoiseshell glasses, made by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, Great Britain, 1937


Tortoise shell; Metal


Fashion; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project; Eyewear


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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