Ray ban BL and RB, History and Information




Ray-Ban was founded in 1937 by Bausch & Lomb (B&L) as a brand under which to design and manufacture sunglasses which incorporated advanced B&L lens technologies. The initial buyer was the U.S. Army Air Corps, but it was Lieutenant John MacCready who had the idea that would change the face of sunglasses.

In 1920, MacCready returned from a balloon flying expedition complaining that the sunlight had done permanent damage to his eyes. He contacted Bausch & Lomb to ask them to use their optical expertise and technology to design sunglasses that would provide complete UV protection while also being stylish and comfortable to wear.

On May 7, 1937, B&L took out the patent on the prototype which included "Anti-Glare" lenses and construction of a lightweight frame that weighed only 150 grams. The prototype sunglasses were made of a gold plated metal with 2 green lenses made of mineral glass to filter out both infrared and ultraviolet rays. Pilots in the Army Air Corps immediately adopted them as did pilots in the other branches of the armed forces.

The "aviator" style became synonymous with Ray-Ban, never more so than when General Douglas MacArthur landed on the beach in the Philippines during World War II and was photographed wearing Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses. Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses featured dark, moderately reflective lens in a shape that covered 2 to 3 times the area of the eye, and they were popular with both traditional wire ear stems and ear pads as well as curved wire ear stems that looped around the ears and secured the fit. Over future years, this style of curved wire ear stems on Ray-Ban sunglasses were also referred to as Shooter and Outdoorsman sunglasses.

There have been many famous Ray-Ban styles over the years transcending Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses, many coupled with new optical or frame advances. As for styles, none became more aligned with pop culture than did Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses designed by B&L optical designer Raymond Stegeman and first introduced in 1952 when their design was a revolutionary break from earlier sunglass styles.

According to design critic Stephen Bayley, the "distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a nonverbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, but one nicely tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a 'masculine look.'" While popular in the 1950s and 1960s, Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses attained the height of their popularity from celebrities who favored the style, from Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie Breakfast At Tiffany's to Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun.

Bob Dylan was hardly ever seen not wearing his Ray-Ban Wayfarers in the 1960s, and other notable personalities who have been extensively photographed wearing Ray-Ban Wayfarers include Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, James Dean, John F. Kennedy, Roy Orbison, John Belushi, and Andy Warhol. Vintage B&L Ray-Ban advertising was very effective in conveying their history with aviators, pilots, and celebrities.


Ray ban Aviator

Ray-Ban introduced a number of innovations in lens technology over the years, and the Vintage Sunglasses Shop has collected plenty of original B&L Ray-Ban marketing materials from the 1940s onward. All vintage Ray-Ban sunglasses feature "precision ground lenses polished from crystal clear optical glass so they are free from distortion or any other flaw." Marketing material from the 1980s notes that Ray-Ban frames "are meticulously from specially alloyed metal or from plastics that are used in prescription eyewear frames."

Among B&L's constant density lenses, the Ray-Ban G-15 neutral gray lenses transmit all colors equally so they retain their true values, providing 85% visible light absorption and 100% UV protection. Ray-Ban B-15 high contrast brown lenses screen out blue light to improve contrast and sharpen details, providing 85% visible light absorption and 100% UV protection. Ray-Ban RB-3 green lenses feature absorption balanced with the eye's sensitivity to colors for peak acuity, with 71% visible light absorption and 100% UV protection.

The amazing Bausch & Lomb Diamond Hard lenses are noted by both the Ray-Ban logo and a diamond etched in the glass of the lens and are virtually scratch proof. Most authentic B&L Ray-Ban lenses produced c mid 1950s and after have a very small BL etched in the glass of the lens near the hinge points of the sunglasses.

Ray-Ban sunglasses were marketed as "The World's finest Sunglasses" which promoted the company's experience over more than 100 years of manufacturing scientific optical instruments. Quality control at the original Ray-Ban was a top priority, with lenses made from optical glass which had been "precision ground and polished to be "free of waves or any other defects that could distort vision and cause eyestrain and fatigue."

Ray-Ban gold frames feature gold electroplating, sometimes with 10k, 12k, or even 24k gold, and the process ensures that the gold is permanently bonded to the core metal which was specially alloyed for both strength and malleability. It is important to note that Ray-Ban black frames were known as "black chrome" and similarly electroplated, so the black finish is not an enamel which could chip or wear off.

We are often asked about what vintage Ray-Ban marks on gold filled frames means. As an example, a vintage B&L Ray-Ban frame with impressed marks B&L 1/10 12K GF indicates a frame with gold content of about 5% pure gold when you exclude the plastic parts, lenses, and screws. To be more exact, the frames are 5% pure gold, 2.5% copper for wear resistance to the gold finish, 2.5% silver to retain the yellow color of pure gold, and the balance magnetic steel in the core. The "GF" hallmark does in fact mean "Gold Filled," but when you consider the relatively small percentage of gold the frames contain and the fact that the gold is on the surface of the frame rather than the core you can see that the GF marking is somewhat a misnomer.

It should also be noted that the "GF" mark is equivalent to the "G.O." (Gold Overlay) mark and the "RGP" (Rolled Gold Plate) mark all used at different periods. Each of these marks implies a gold content of at least 5% by weight. In this type of plating, a layer of gold is attached to the core metal by a combination of pressure, heat, and chemicals. This is the origin of the "Rolled" in RGP, i.e. the gold is literally rolled or pressed onto the core metal.

This method differs from electroplating in that the gold content in electroplating is less than 1% by weight. The idea behind RGP is to put enough gold on the core metal such that there will be no wear through at least 30 years of wear. Obviously the process is better than expected as we've never seen a vintage B&L Ray-Ban gold filled frame with wear through to the finish. The bottom line is that a GF finish will last indefinitely with no significant wear to the gold plating at all. Remember that a 12K gold alloy of 50% gold, 25% copper and 25% silver has a hardness rating of 160. That's pretty hard compared to pure gold which has a hardness rating of just 20.


Ambermatic lens

A few of the most notable variations of the Ray-Ban lens technology include Changeables, photochromatic lenses which react to the sun's brightness to protect your eyes, darkening and lightening an amazing range of 75% range depending on light conditions. Ray-Ban Kalichrome shooter and outdoorsman sunglasses were yellow lens shooters designed for shooting sports conducted in hazy, foggy, and low light conditions.

The yellow lenses actually intensify light and increase contrast, and wearing them on bright sunny days might hurt your eyes a bit but you will at least look cool. The shooter design is similar to the aviator but sits higher up on the face, and the space between lenses is separated by a circular ring that is referred to as the bullet hole, and it has cable temples to give a secure fit for active pursuits. Ray-Ban "smart" Ambermatic lenses adjust to the prevailing light. On cloudy and overcast days, Ray-Ban Ambermatic sunglasses are lightly tinted and amber colored to cut through haze and sharpen vision. On sunny, warm days they turn brown to block the glare, and on sunny, cold days they change to dark gray for superior protection from direct and reflected glare.

We are also asked a lot about characteristics and marks on real vintage Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses. The aviator frame should be solid and sturdy with de minimus wear to the gold plating regardless of the age of the aviators. You can find vintage aviators with the typical B&L Ray-Ban gold plating as well as aviators which are either 10k or 12k gold filled. In almost all cases, the top of the frame at the nose bridge will be marked with B&L Ray-Ban U.S.A. sometimes followed by the frame and lens size and sometimes followed with 10k GF or 12k GF designations, all etched in the metal of the frame.

Most aviators will also have B&L Ray-Ban USA inscribed in the frame below the nose bridge as well depending on the design. The small etched BL in the lenses near the hinge points was not used in Ray-Ban sunglass lens production until the late 1970's, and the cursive white Ray-Ban trademark logo on the lens was introduced in late 1982 and subsequently present on all Ray-Ban sunglasses from 1983 onward.

Like many higher end consumer items, Ray-Ban sunglasses are extensively reproduced in Asia, so easily that a simple google search will turn up Chinese web sites selling many styles of fake Ray-Bans. At the Vintage Sunglasses Shop, we take great care to vet every pair of vintage sunglasses we sell for period authenticity. There are various ways to identify fake Ray-Ban sunglasses if one knows what to look for. If you buy vintage sunglasses on auction sites, your chances of buying a fake are not insignificant.


Ray-Ban was acquired by the Luxottica conglomerate in 1999, also now the owner of many of the world's most famous brands of sunglasses including Revo, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Chanel, Versace, DKNY, and more. In our view, the quality of Ray-Ban sunglasses quickly declined with corporate ownership and a blurring of the lines with other Luxottica brands. While the new styles are fine if you like them, the Vintage Sunglasses Shop focuses its attention on Ray-Ban styles and models produced c 2000 and earlier.

The classic and eclectic frame styles produced during this period coupled with the most significant advances in B&L lens technology easily explain why these vintage Ray-Ban sunglasses styles usually sell for higher prices than brand new Ray-Bans- even in the exact same style.

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