Cartier glasses: Collections, where to buy and how to spot a fake
In 1847, Louis-François Cartier purchased the workshop of Parisian master craftsman Adolphe Picard, and began what would become one of the world’s most well-known luxury brands.
Initially known for its fine jewelry and watches, Cartier crafted its first eyewear in 1887 — custom-made, diamond-encrusted opera glasses for a French princess. For the next 96 years, Cartier’s lavish glasses were only available by special order for the most discriminating of customers.
Cartier debuted its first line of mass-produced optical glasses in 1983, featuring the same high-end materials, sophisticated details and expert craftsmanship for which the brand is known.
To this day, Cartier eyeglasses are some of the most expensive on the market, with the majority costing well over $1,000. Though choices are more limited, there are also several options in the $500-$900 range.
If you’re looking to purchase Cartier eyewear, avoid fakes by visiting one of their “approved opticians” to view the entire collection. You can also buy some of their eyeglasses at select in-person and online retailers.
Why buy Cartier glasses?
Cartier brings their world-renowned reputation for refined, classic luxury and superior quality to their optical glasses. Like their jewelry, no expense is spared and no shortcuts are taken when crafting Cartier eyewear.
According to their website, many of Cartier’s frames are made with “noble materials such as wood and horn” or precious metals, such as platinum, gold and titanium, though some of their less expensive glasses feature acetate frames.
Despite being mass-produced, the frames are designed and created by master craftspeople, displaying the same precision and attention to detail as the company’s famed jewelry techniques. Plus, they’re finished by hand to ensure that each pair is flawless.
The cost of Cartier eyeglasses
The price of Cartier glasses begins in the $500 range and can run over $6,000. Before you visit your optician, it’s a good idea to look online and get a general understanding of the type of glasses you like and can afford — but remember, there may also be high added costs, depending on your prescription.
Things to consider regarding costs include:
Frame material – If you’d like to own a pair of these luxurious designer glasses but can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars, your best bet is a pair with acetate frames. These typically cost under or just over $1,000.
Frame style – Rimmed and framed glasses are less expensive than rimless glasses. Why? It’s more of a challenge to create a pair of glasses that appear to be “invisible.”
Frame details – The more details included in the frames (hinge style, adornments, etc.), the higher the cost.
Cartier eyewear collections for men and women
Cartier glasses feature refined, distinct designs for men and women, as well as a variety of unisex options. Lenses are either framed, rimmed, semi-rimless or rimless, and are available in various shapes, including oval, rectangular and cat-eye options. Many of Cartier’s collections offer options for both men and women.
Some of their more significant collections are:
Panthère de Cartier – These glasses feature a handmade design element on every pair. Depending on the particular frame style, expect to see the company’s well-known pouncing panther on the hinges or a sculptural three-dimensional panther face on the rim of the lens.
Première de Cartier – Available in a few different frame styles (including aviator and an updated cat eye), this line emphasizes modern lines. The iconic “C” embellishes the arms, which come in a range of finishes, including titanium and ruthenium, a silvery-white metal.
Louis Cartier – Inspired by the brand’s heritage, this collection features a bold and elegant hinge. The glasses are complemented by carefully selected gems and available in 18-carat solid gold — in yellow, white and pink.
Santos de Cartier – These glasses feature the recognizable Santos screw as a symbol of the collection. On some models, the screws are functional, while others have multiple screws as part of the design. Lenses come in a variety of styles, including aviator.
C Décor: – A refined, elegant collection, many of these glasses feature temples made of precious wood with the “C” emblem in gold or platinum.
Cartier’s buffalo horn (“Buffies”) frames
Some of Cartier’s frames feature a unique and notable material: the horns of Asian water buffalo. (Cartier clearly states that they only use buffalo horn from domestic animals, therefore meeting the international convention’s standards on protected species.)
Even though these horns can be quite long, sometimes only a small part of each will meet Cartier’s very high standards.
Aside from beauty and warmth, buffalo horn is prized for its very light weight. Even as Cartier’s craftspeople layer pieces of horn to create their signature elegant and exotic look, the frames remain slim instead of bulky.
Buffalo horn is also used in some Cartier sunglasses — this type of shades is often referred to as “Buffies.” They’ve made their way into pop culture thanks to rapper Rich Ken. His song “All White Buffies” is about Cartier’s white buffalo horn sunglasses. In Detroit, the whiter the sunglasses, the more they are desired.
How to spot fake Cartier glasses
If you’re shopping in-person or online for new or vintage Cartier glasses, it pays to know if you’re purchasing the real deal. Because this eyewear is so coveted and so expensive, there are plenty of knock-offs around that can trick the untrained eye.
To determine if the Cartier glasses you’d like to purchase are authentic, the first thing you should check is the overall quality. Look to see if the paint is chipping, there are scratches in the frames or anything is misspelled — these are simple indicators that you’re looking at a pair of fake Cartier glasses.
There are several other, more specific ways to spot a fake, including taking a much closer look at various parts of the glasses along with any etchings or engravings.
SEE RELATED: Fake Wayfarer sunglasses: How to spot them
Examine the Cartier engravings
Old Cartier glasses have the same distinct engravings as newer ones. Look for the brand’s logo in their signature italic font — it’s been on every piece of Cartier jewelry since the early 1910s. On Cartier eyewear, you’ll find the signature inside each frame, with a seven-digit serial number right next to it. Carefully examine the gold engravings on the inner temples to confirm both the words “Cartier” and “Paris” appear. These engravings should be flush on the wood or metal (not raised) and the metal should not chip. Because they’re made with such high-quality materials, there should be no scuffs or discoloration on the glasses.
Original Cartier glasses will also have the bridge measurements engraved across the bridge and Cartier’s signature on both nose pieces.
Additionally, you’ll also find the signature etched into each lens. To see it, you’ll need to use a fine magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe. You’re looking for clean, even engravings — not a stamp. People who make fake Cartier glasses often skip the lens signature or do it poorly, so it’s worth taking the time to check each lens.
If you’re shopping online, these engravings can be challenging to see. Make sure you check the retailer’s return policy before purchasing.
Verify the Cartier warranty card & leather case
Original Cartier glasses should be sold with a hard leather case, cleaning cloth and a certificate that guarantees authenticity. Ask to see the certificate, case and serial number before purchasing, even if you’re buying from an individual rather than a retailer.
Before you purchase the glasses, take this information to a Cartier store or call Cartier to verify the details of the glasses and certify that the information you received is linked to a pair of original Cartier glasses.
These glasses aren’t cheap, even for online retailers, so be prepared to spend a significant amount of money for an authentic pair. Cheap Cartier glasses, especially those that are 75% less than the full retail price, are usually fake. That’s because, even when Cartier glasses are for sale online, stores won’t sell them below cost.
Buying vintage Cartier glasses
If you’re hoping to secure a pair of vintage Cartier glasses, like rapper Gucci Mane, you may have some luck finding frames online. But, unless you know the seller’s reputation, you may end up with a convincing knock-off. Sites like eBay and 1stDibs have entire sections dedicated to older Cartier eyewear, filled with multiple sellers who may not offer a legitimate product.
As with purchasing new glasses, price is a key indicator in determining authenticity for vintage glasses. Expect that old Cartier models made for mass production will sell for a similar price, if not more, than new ones. And remember that any optical glasses made before 1983 were made by special order and will likely sell for a premium price.
As mentioned above, ask to view the certification and receive the serial number to confirm your purchase will be worth your money.
SEE RELATED: The history and allure of vintage sunglasses
Shop Cartier eyeglasses
Sure, buying a pair of glasses in-person requires more time and effort than shopping online, but given the financial investment with Cartier, the tripmay be worth it. Taking the time to try on each pair will give you a real sense of how they look and feel.
Whether you end up shopping online or at a brick-and-mortar retailer, though, be sure to certify the authenticity of your glasses so there are no surprises after your purchase.
Buy Cartier glasses in-person
According to Cartier, the best place to buy their glasses is an approved optician’s office. There, you can speak with a specialist who can help you decide on the right frames and lens shape based on your style, preferences and price range. They’ll also be able to answer any questions about the brand or collection.
Along with these approved opticians, some optical retail stores also carry Cartier, including:
LensCrafters – Cartier glasses are only sold in select LensCrafters stores, so you’ll need to do some research to see if the brand is available at the store closest to you. (If not, you can try the company’s website.)
Cohen’s Fashion Optical – Cartier glasses are not available in all stores, so call before you go.
Buy Cartier glasses online
If you cannot make it to an approved, brick-and-mortar Cartier retailer, don’t worry — several reputable online retailers are authorized to sell Cartier optical glasses. Some of these include:
CoolFrames.com – CoolFrames have a selection of more than 100 different Cartier glasses ranging in price from $545 to over $6,000. They also feature an in-house optical lab that can add prescription lenses.
Designer Eyes – This retailer sell a combination of Cartier sunglasses and eyeglasses at both their online and retail stores.
FashionEyewear.com – Featuring a wide variety of luxury glasses brands, this site includes just over a dozen Cartier glasses, all under $1,000.
Wholesale Cartier glasses
You can also find Cartier glasses for sale online at some wholesale sites. Wholesale prices are generally lower than in-store or other online sellers, which makes these retailers enticing.
Just make sure you check carefully and verify that you’re purchasing the real deal from an approved retailer. If the site includes the words “replica” or “Cartier-style” in the description, that’s a clear indication they are not authentic Cartier glasses.
Ultimately, no matter where or how you choose to buy, a luxury item like designer eyewear is a big investment — so doing your research is well worth your time.
Page updated February 2021