THE VALLEY OF THE GLASSES

Belluno is not famous, and that’s a good thing. It’s an unspoilt Dolomite town and province. The birthplace of John Paul I, who was Pope for 33 days. Alpine Town of the Year 1999. The Valley of the Glasses.

Making glasses is a regional speciality, like Milan does fashion, or Turin does cars. Italy’s like that. Every region, and regions within regions, can boast a specialised culture of making. But Belluno doesn’t boast. And the local people are still doing the making, despite globalisation. It’s for this reason that the world’s finest eyewear artisanry happens, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in this clear-skied unfamous place.

It’s here that each pair of KITEs is made. By hand. Local artisans cut and fuse Mazzucchelli acetate to create frames, cushioned nose-pads, tapered temple tips and lens bars. Our makers supervise the tumbling process which polishes, and polishes. Then they use custom-designed rivets to screw in three Swiss barrel-hinges for super-resilience. Human eyes and hands check, polish, check, adjust, check, and pack… before the artefacts take flight to our London laboratory, where the glazing happens. Farewell to Italy!

We read somewhere that sunglasses were invented way back when in the Valley of the Glasses, because the shepherds and cowherds needed eye-protection from the unimpeded high-altitude light and the dazzle of snow. It would make sense of the region’s vibrant eyewear-making culture. But it’s legend, rather than fact.

Roman emperor Nero wore optical emeralds at the arena. In medieval China some enterprising people wore anti-glare eye-panes made from smoky quartz. And in Georgian times an English optician, renowned for his microscopes and double-hinged spectacles, treated certain vision problems with blue or green tinted lenses.

Still… Hmm. Belluno swore friendship to Rome as far back as 225 BC, and later became amunicipium of the Roman empire. It’s just possible that word got out from the capital and Nero’s fancy eye-jewels started a trend. No?

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