What is cellulose acetate?
Cellulose is a main constituent of plant/wood cell walls and vegetable fibres that can be extracted and used to derive cellulose acetate - a plant-based polymer/plastic of natural origin. For eyewear, the source of cellulose for the best quality acetates is almost exclusively cotton, specifically Italian cotton.
Cellulose acetates were first introduced to eyewear lines in the late 1940s because of the shortcomings, such as brittleness, associated with early generations of plastics. In addition to being hypoallergenic and being made from a renewable resource, modern acetates are known for their strength, flexibility, and for being lightweight. The material also offers the widest range for transparency, rich colours, and finishes commonly used for eyewear frames. More complex colourations are able to be produced by layering, or laminating, several colours or transparencies together like a sandwich. Seemingly, there are endless possibilities for these laminated acetates.
Cellulose Acetate for eyewear is made by forming layers of plastic into large blocks then carefully slicing individual parts, hand polishing and finally assembling them into a frame. The material is ideal thanks to its workability and the vibrant visual impact of the finished product. Industrial-scale production of frames in acetate sheet involves a series of steps that require both highly sophisticated technology and a skilled, specialized workforce. In Italy, the production of acetate frames occurs at both industrial and artisanal levels, but cellulose acetate sheets are mainly produced by two large Italian companies: Mazzucchelli and La/Es.