When did the coating for glasses that reflects green become common?
February 7, 2017 10:08 PM   Subscribe

When did the coating for glasses that reflects green become available? I believe it's an anti-reflective coating. TO BE CLEAR: I'm not asking when anti-reflective coatings were invented. I'm specifically asking about the coating that causes a green reflection when light hits it. What is it, and when did it become available for prescription glasses? I'm asking because I often spot that green reflection on glasses while watching a period piece TV series, and it immediately seems out of place.

If you were watching Boardwalk Empire, an HBO show about Atlantic City in the 1920s and they put a big band record on, you'd think it fit. If they put on a Beatles record, you'd immediately think "What?! The Beatles didn't exist yet!" Well, that's what I think when I see the green reflection of antireflective coating on glasses in a period piece like The People VS OJ Simpson. Did that specific coating exist in glasses in 1994? If it did, surely I would have had it... and I didn't... so...?

EXAMPLE: The People VS OJ Simpson (on Netflix). Episode 4. 27 minutes into it. Marcia Clark is talking to Christopher Darden about the voir dire. The camera shifts from her to him, and the green glare on his glasses is from an anti-reflective coating that didn't exist in 1994.

Even if it DID exist in 1994 (which I doubt), it certainly didn't exist in the 1800s, which means I shouldn't spot it while watching Deadwood! I've been wearing glasses since the late 1970s. The first time I got a pair of glasses with a coating that reflected green was in 2011. The green reflection seemed so odd to me that I went back to the shop a week later to make sure there wasn't something wrong.

This has bugged me for a while, so I thought I'd ask.
posted by 2oh1 to Technology (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not coatings, but: Already by the mid-1600s, people were purchasing and wearing tinted glasses throughout England. One such person was the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys. In the comments section, someone mentions a pair of green glasses worn by a miner in the late 1800s/early 1900s (person died at age 96, sometime in the 1940s).
posted by furtive_jackanapes at 10:40 PM on February 7, 2017

I don't think 2oh1 is talking about green-tinted lenses, but rather the antireflective coating (or whatever it is) that makes reflections in the lenses have a green cast as a side effect of whatever else it does. I don't know what it's called or when it became widely used but I agree that it's a thing. Unless I'm wrong, in which case, bah.
posted by Alterscape at 10:56 PM on February 7, 2017

I'm unsure about the green glasses coating, but I think I noticed in episode 2? When OJ is being driven in the Bronco back to Rockingham, a supporter with a sign rushes up to the car and it looks like the sign starts with a "#". Now, my memory of the early 90s is a little fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure we didn't have hashtags back then. So some details might have slipped through the cracks in this show.
posted by therewolf at 10:58 PM on February 7, 2017

I just pulled out my first pair of glasses from 1998 and they have the green-reflecting coating. It was offered to me as an optional extra at the time.
posted by Naanwhal at 11:10 PM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is definitely a thing, Alterscape, you're not wrong. Try this with your own glasses if you have them, or someone else's (prescription, not sure about reading) glasses if you don't: Take glasses off, and hold them so you can see the reflection of a light in your house. It will appear green.

As to when it started being common, I first got glasses in 1996, and they did not offer this option. The next time I got a pair of glasses was in 2003, and I believe they were offering it by then. Sorry I can't be more specific than that, but hopefully it narrows your range a little.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 11:11 PM on February 7, 2017

I think people are misunderstanding the question.

I'm not asking about green tint.

I'm asking about glasses that, when direct light hits them, the antireflective coating reflects as green. I've been wearing glasses since the late 1970s. I had bifocals before I was ten. I've had glasses with just about every coating you can imagine.

I never experienced a strong green reflection in my glasses until 2011, and the green reflection that happened when direct light hit caught me so off guard that I went back to the store I got them from to see if something was wrong. I'd been wearing glasses for probably 35 years by that point.

I've had antireflective coatings on my glasses for ages. But, for me, it's only been recent that the antireflective coating caused glasses to reflect green. What is that specific coating and when did that change happen?
posted by 2oh1 at 11:23 PM on February 7, 2017

I just took off my glasses--high-index lenses, Cristal anti-reflective coating--and stared at them for like 30 seconds at various angles. I don't see a green reflection... Am I just blind (quite possible since I'm severely myopic and examining my glasses requires taking them off my face)? Or is the green reflection specific to only certain coatings?
posted by serelliya at 11:49 PM on February 7, 2017

"Or is the green reflection specific to only certain coatings?"

EXACTLY. It's specific coatings, and it happens when light hits at specific angles.

I'll say it again. EXAMPLE: The People VS OJ Simpson (on Netflix). Episode 4. 27 minutes into it. Marcia Clark is talking to Christopher Darden about the voir dire. The camera shifts from her to him, and the green glare on his glasses is from an anti-reflective coating that didn't exist in 1994.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:52 PM on February 7, 2017

I don't have definite dates for you, but just googling a bit, I've found some info that pushes the earliest possibility back a bit as well as info that suggests why green eventually became most common.

This thread on Optiboard starts out with a complaint about green anti-reflective coatings dated 2000, and a follow-up from 2009 says, "the reason most manufacturers choose to have their residual color fall in the green range is that its most forgiving spectrum in that small deviations in metalics don't result in a large color shift."

This thread on Optiboard describes some color variations in AR coatings and confirms at least some were green in 2001.

This thread on Optiboard says green reflections (among others) came about with the introduction of multi-layer coatings, whereas earlier, single-layer coatings of magnesium fluoride had a purple reflection. A later comment in the thread explains why manufacturers mostly settled on green: it "has a higher yield, due to less color variation between batches, which means that manufacturers have to throw away fewer lenses because they don't match colors. Slight variations in Green A/R show up less noticably than other colors. Although A/R can be made in other colors than green, color variations are more likely and/or more noticable in other colors, resulting in more lenses that don't pass inspection, and higher manufacturing costs."
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:57 PM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

According to a post in Wobbuffet's first link, as well as Zeiss's own website, the Zeiss Super ET coating has a blue-green reflection. An opthamaology desk reference from 1991 has an entry for Zeiss Super ET coating, so unless Zeiss changed the formulation of the coating substantially between 1991 and 2000 without changing the branding at all (seems unlikely) then this coating existed at least by 1991.
posted by phoenixy at 12:42 AM on February 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

[One deleted. 2oh1, it's fine to respond to clarify, but your question asks when the coating became common, and also when the coating became available. You are getting responses to both those queries, so hopefully you will find useful information here. No need to argue.]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:32 AM on February 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I mistakenly used the word "available," but in my question, I made it clear that I was asking when it became common enough that a TV show about an era would or wouldn't have it and I cited several TV shows as examples.

The first CD was released in 1982, but if you made a show about 1982 showing people listening to CDs it would look ridiculous. The technology existed but it wasn't the norm. And showing people listening to CDs in the time of Julius Caesar would certainly be silly.

I'm asking when this specific coating became so common that a TV show about that specific era would make sure characters who wore glasses had it in their prescriptions. It had to be an oversight when I spotted it on shows like Boardwalk Empire (1920s), Deadwood (1800s) or HBO's ROME which was about the Roman Empire.

Anyway... it sounds like it started to become common in prescription glasses in the early 2000s. I appreciate the links above.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:48 AM on February 8, 2017

It's common but not universal, in that my current pair doesn't have it, me being too mean to pay again for something that's only going to get scratched off. First pair I had with the coating was about 2011 as you say, but I was a late adopter and I'd noticed other people's glasses with that green reflection at least 5 years earlier.

The BBC recently produced To Walk Invisible about the Brontes which was wonderful and touching in all respects, except that Charlotte, Branwell and Mr. Bronte himself all had a green reflection to their otherwise scrupulously period-exact spectacles.
posted by glasseyes at 2:15 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure I had this option in the early-mid 90s -- I remember my school photos had less bright-white glasses glare in them from about 7th grade on. At the time I was living in a small town in rural Minnesota.
posted by pepper bird at 5:21 AM on February 8, 2017

I agree with you that it is fairly recent that these became extremely common, rather than just one option.

Not sure if this helps, but I recently ordered my first pair of glasses with reduced thickness lenses, and I was told that getting them with anti-reflective coating was mandatory-- no way to get reduced thickness without it (at least from that manufacturer, common to many commercial optometry outlets).

The green flash drives me bonkers, but I notice it on other people's glasses all the time now in a way that I definitely didn't notice it before.

I googled a bit, and it looks like maybe 2003 is when upselling the anti-glare coating became A Thing. I will say that for at least the past five years, it has taken some very firm resolve to not buy it-- the salespeople act like not getting it will result in certain death. I would guess most people either believe them that it is important to have, or they just are willing to get it so they don't have to deal with all the "BUT YOUR POOR EYES" playacting.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:46 AM on February 8, 2017

Yeah, this 2003 newspaper ad explaining anti-reflective coatings claimed that "approximately fourteen percent of all glasses sold in the U.S. have this protection." If that's true, 14% isn't common, and it may be relevant to the question of popularity that the ad existed around that time at all.
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:25 AM on February 8, 2017

Glancing around the web, an article from an issue of Eyecare Business from July 2000 says that the last few years had seen a large increase in prescriptions with AR coatings but that they were not yet routinely prescribed for every patient. I'm pretty sure I had a pair of glasses in the mid-90s with an AR coating, though I have no idea how its reflections were tinted.


I'm asking when this specific coating became so common that a TV show about that specific era would make sure characters who wore glasses had it in their prescriptions.

The problem you're going to hit is... common among who? Where?

You would think that people whose job requires them to walk around and be personally persuasive to people like trial attorneys would be quicker to adopt products that significantly enhance their appearance by allowing juries etc to more clearly see their eyes. And you might expect such a thing to spread more widely in LA where a large industry is heavily appearance-based (and deals with optics) than in Wichita. So I would expect something like this to be unremarkable among attorneys in LA before it was common nationwide.

More though I think you have to lump antireflective coatings in with other appearance-enhancing, better-than-real-life things in tv and film, and not something that they're trying to keep... synchronistic? not-anachronistic. I mean, Mad Men tried to be set in the time for each season. But it certainly looked like *everyone* from Don Draper down to Peggy Olson and even the extras still had *all* their clothing tailored exactly to their bodies and spent their lives walking around with professionally applied multi-hour makeup jobs every day, which I'm pretty sure wasn't the case in the 60s and 70s. Even if it's anachronistic or unrealistic, a show is likely to put its actors in eyeglasses that don't cause endless lens flare problems or constantly reflect the crew because that's one hell of a lot cheaper than having the actor use lensless frames and cgi-ing in some appropriate reflections like Avatar did with facemasks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:38 AM on February 8, 2017

Talked to my boss, a ~30 year eyewear veteran, and he concurs with the early to mid 00's as the period when AR and Anti-Glare coatings started being pushed more heavily, which is because that's when AR coating tech stopped being terrible and expensive.

As for how common it is, I could run our numbers but a guess would honestly still place the percentage of glasses sold with AR at around 15%, it's not terrible common. People who work in front of computers are the most likely candidates, as are people who are likely to have their picture taken often.

I also notice this all the time, (saw Hidden Figures last week, most recent offender), and I think it's so common in media for two reasons.

1. AR simply films and looks better in bright lighting. Wearing AR glasses allows the audience a better view of the actor's eyes, and most actors probably wear AR all the time anyway to avoid glare from cameras and stuff.

2. Glasses fall into a strange category for prop authenticity, as for some people they are actually totally necessary prosthetics and changing lenses can actually be problematic, and for some people it's entirely an aesthetic choice. Not a lot of props like that.
posted by neonrev at 7:23 AM on February 8, 2017

One other eyewear-related thing that, once you're aware of it, you never stop noticing.

If a film or TV show is set before 1975 or so, almost everyone over the age of 40 who is wearing glasses should be wearing lined bifocals or be using reading glasses and distance glasses, because progressive (no-line bifocals) were not really a thing until then, and didn't start taking off until the 90's, more or less.

This is especially problematic when the show gets the frame style correct, but doesn't realize that one of the reasons larger frames were more common in the past is that more people were wearing bifocals and trifocals and leaving space for that was more the done thing.
posted by neonrev at 7:36 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I remember buying a DVD of Shadow of the Vampire (2000) in 2001, and reading the Goofs page on IMDB where there was an entry about the green refection on a character's lens for a film set in 1922. I've noticed it ever since, and it's been 16 years.
posted by andrewzipp at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2017

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