Friday, March 10, 2023

Protect Those Baby Blues


By Suzanne Norquist

Every skier knows the dangers of the bright sun reflecting off a snowy field. Ski goggles reduce the sun’s intensity, providing essential eye protection, even if they make the wearer look like a raccoon. But what did people do before the invention of modern sunglasses?


Indigenous people living near the Arctic circle created snow goggles to reduce exposure to sunlight. They fashioned strips of bone, wood, or other material with slits.

Roman Emperor Nero watched gladiator fights through cut emeralds. It isn’t clear if they shielded his eyes from the sun or improved his vision. They likely didn’t work very well.

In the twelfth century, the Chinese created sunglasses with flat planes of smokey quartz. While they protected the eyes from glare, their primary purpose may have been to conceal facial expressions. Judges would wear them while questioning witnesses.

In the late eighteenth century, Italians wore tinted spectacles, known as Goldoni Glasses, for sun protection. They were named after the playwright who popularized the style. Most often, they provided protection from the glare of the water in the canals.

Around that same time, people began to use tinted glasses for medical conditions like vision impairment and sensitivity to light. Blue or green-tinted glasses were thought to correct specific vision problems. Yellow or brown lenses were used with syphilis patients who developed a sensitivity to light.

A few soldiers in the Civil War had special glasses for long marches, known as “shell spectacles.” They would prevent the eyes from being sunburned and may have even have protected them against shrapnel. Some glasses even boasted orange-tinted lenses with a little unshaded circle over each pupil, allowing snipers to hone in on their target.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, merchants sold various kinds of lenses to protect the eyes from the sun. Newspaper articles expounded on the benefits of different colors of lenses. Here is an advertisement for Eye Shades. Instead of colored lenses, little shades sit over each eye. Perhaps the precursor to modern baseball caps?

Sir William Crooke, a British chemist, developed 100% ultraviolet-light-blocking lenses using cerium in 1913. In 1929, inexpensive sunglasses were mass-produced by Sam Foster. Foster Grants became popular on beaches and with movie stars. Over the years, improvements were made in style and functionality.

Back to where it all started, it's incredible how ingenious those early Arctic dwellers were as they created goggles with little slits. They figured out how to protect those baby blues—even without Sunglass Huts in every mall.



”Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection

Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.

Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist

Rockledge, Colorado, 1884

Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?

Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.



  1. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing Suzanne!

  2. Thank you for posting today! I am grateful for sunglasses especially now as I am older and the glare really hampers my vision. I would be lost without my photogray lenses. I'm always amazed how you all come up with subjects we didn't know we needed to know!!

    1. Thanks. I ran across a picture of those glasses with slits, and it piqued my curiosity.