Quality Sunglasses vs. Expensive Sunglasses

We all know that sunglasses have become the status symbol du jour – Channel, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace all have their logos stamped across the faces of celebrities and have Mrs. Middle America breaking the bank to get her hands on a pair of each (did I introduce myself? Hi, I’m Mrs. Middle America. And I’m shamelessly addicted to sunglasses.)

I have been through a pair of Channels, a pair of Burberry, and a pair of Coach sunglasses on my quest for a really great pair… but do you know what grabbed me and held on?


They are a Swiss company who began designing protective eyewear for athletes (Snow Sport increases UV exposure to our eyes by up to 80% by reflecting the rays back at our eyes – the Swiss know a thing or ten about protecting our eyes from this danger). They have expanded, both in their designs and geographically. They now sell sport and fashion UV protection glasses around the globe.

Finding and wearing Cerjo glasses has taught me a very important lesson – there is a difference between expensive sunglasses and quality sunglasses.

Now Cerjo’s aren’t cheap – you won’t get this level of protection from a pair of glasses you pick up at a truck stop from a carousel of shades with a flexy mirror the size of an index card and a price tag of $5.99 tied with plastic across the bridge of your nose – but they don’t cost as much as a car payment.

It seems so basic – two pieces of thin tinted plastic popped into a thick plastic (or metal if it suits your fancy) frame.

How complicated can this possibly get?

As it turns out – much more complicated. There are a myriad of things you can do to those two little discs that can make the difference between, well, night and day to your eyes.

A little research at How Stuff Works turns up this info:

“There are four things that a good pair of sunglasses should do for you:

  • Provide protection from UV rays
  • Provide protection from intense light. (or HEV – High Energy Visible light rays)
  • Provide protection from glare. Certain surfaces, such as water, can reflect a great deal of light, and the bright spots can be distracting or can hide objects. Good sunglasses can completely eliminate this kind of glare using polarization
  • Sunglasses eliminate specific frequencies of light. Certain frequencies of light can blur vision, and others can enhance contrast. Choosing the right color for your sunglasses lets them work better in specific situations.

Cheap sunglasses usually do not address any of these benefits – or in some cases make things worse. If your glasses don’t block the UV rays but do provide shade you are more likely to extend your exposure to the UV rays! You open your eyes wide and let more and more harmful UV rays in, increasing the damage to your retinas.”

While most of America (read: ME) is paying top dollar for the frame what we should be doing is paying for quality lenses. Any frame will do – its purposes to hold our lenses in front of our eyes first, look good second.

The qualities of the lens that you should spend your money on are:

I also wanted to know the definition of Polarization, and found this at How Stuff Works:

“Light waves vibrate and radiate outward in all directions. Whether the light is transmitted, reflected, scattered or refracted, when its vibrations are aligned into one or more planes of direction, the light is said to be polarized. Polarization can occur either naturally or artificially.

A simple example of polarization can be seen on the surface of a lake. When you look at a lake you see a reflected glare, this is the light that doesn’t pass through the lake’s surface and is bounced back, this is the reason that you probably can’t see anything below the surface – even if the lake is very clear and very still.

Polarized lenses are most commonly made of by applying a chemical film to a transparent plastic or glass lens. The chemical film is usually made up of molecules that align naturally parallel to each other, thus creating a filter that absorbs any light that matches their alignment, and eliminating the reflective glare.

There are a lot of sunglasses out there being advertised and sold as being “polarizing” that aren’t. Here’s a test you can do standing in the store before you buy – Find a reflective surface, and hold the glasses so that you are viewing the surface through one of the lenses. Now slowly rotate the glasses to a 90-degree angle and see if the glare gets better or worse. If the sunglasses are polarized, you will see that the glare is greatly diminished.”

And since I was spending the morning on How Stuff Works, I also wanted their description of tinting:

“The color of the tint determines the parts of the light spectrum that are absorbed by the lenses. Manufacturers use different colors to produce specific results.

  • Gray tints are great all-purpose tints that reduce the overall amount of brightness with the least amount of color distortion. Gray lenses offer good protection against glare, making them a good choice for driving and general use.
  • Yellow or gold tints reduce the amount of blue light while allowing a larger percentage of other frequencies through. Since blue light tends to bounce and scatter off a lot of things, it can create a kind of glare known as blue haze. The yellow tint virtually eliminates the blue part of the spectrum and has the effect of making everything bright and sharp. (Read Why is the sky blue? for more information on this effect.) That’s why snow glasses are usually yellow. This tint really distorts color perception, which makes it inappropriate for any activity that relies on accurate color.
  • Amber and brownish tints are also good general purpose tints. They have the added benefit of reducing glare and have molecules that absorb higher frequency colors, such as blue, in addition to UV rays. There has been research that suggests that near-UV light frequencies such as blue and violet can contribute to the formation of cataracts over time.
  • Green tints on lenses filter some blue light and reduce glare. Because green tints offer the highest contrast and greatest visual acuity of any tint, they are very popular.
  • Purple and rose tints offer the best contrast of objects against a green or blue background. They make a good choice for hunting or water skiing.

Many manufacturers employ a process called constant density to tint the lenses. It is the oldest method of creating sunglasses and involves a glass or polycarbonate mixture with a uniform color throughout the material. The tint is built right into the lenses when they are created.

Tinting can also be accomplished by applying a coat of light-absorbing molecules to the surface of clear polycarbonate. The most common method for tinting polycarbonate lenses is to immerse the lenses in a special liquid containing the tinting material. The tint is slowly absorbed into the plastic. To make a darker tint, the lenses are simply left in the liquid longer.”

Lucky for me Cerjo has an entire line of glasses that offer the kind of protection I’m not leaving the house without that are also geared towards the fashionista in me. They call the line “Crazy” and they come in both plastic and metal.

I’ve started my collection and now that I know the difference between quality sunglasses and expensive sunglasses I’m only buying the quality my eyes deserve.

I’m only buying Cerjo.