Maison Bonnet is a manufacturer of spectacle frames, known the world over to a small niche of connoisseurs. Its clients number some of the most influential people of the twentieth century, including – to name just a few – Le Corbusier, Aristotle Onassis, Yves Saint Laurent and Jacqueline Bouvier.
The main features of Maison Bonnet glasses which have made them so famous are their complete made-to-measure construction, the high level of craftsmanship and the use of a material which nowadays is almost impossible to find: tortoiseshell.
Entry to Maison Bonnet is by appointment only. Clients can choose the model they desire from a myriad of samples, decide on materials and finishing and then have the necessary measurements taken of their head, just as if they were at the tailor’s.
The choice of materials ranges from acetate to buffalo horn, but tortoiseshell is the noblest material for spectacles, and Bonnet is one of the few glassmakers in the world able to continue using it.
Tortoiseshell is made principally of cheratin, it is hypoallergenic, light and resistant. Its most prized characteristics, however, are the beautiful colours and shades of colour which can be obtained from it. The most beautiful shells come from Eretmochelys imbricata, a species living in the Caribbean, whose blonde colour is the rarest and most sought-after.
The market for this material is strictly regulated by CITES nowadays, and Maison Bonnet, thanks to a large stock of it accumulated in the 1970s and the title of Master of Art given to Mr Bonnet by the French Ministry of Culture, remains one of the very few manufacturers in the world able to own and use it.
Paris, February 2017