Author: Alessandra Albarello

Interview of the Month
June 27, 2016

The unique beauty of glass lenses: pure, resistant, non-deformable and recyclable: Gianni Vetrini, CEO, Barberini, the Italian leader in the production of glass lenses, talks to Alessandra Albarello.
Barberini is one of the leading Italian lens companies established in 1963 in the period of economic growth after the Second World War.
Founded by the Barberini family, the company has become the most important global producers of glass sun lenses and supplier to some of the most important companies in the international optical business. Specialists in high quality polarised lenses, the company has transformed tradition with innovations, confronting the challenges of the market with determination and energy, all the while paying attention to sustainability and other areas of great importance, as Gianni Vetrini, CEO Barberini, explains in this exclusive interview.

Q: Describe the characteristics of the new Platinum Glass lens.

A: We have decided to create our own Barberini sunglasses collection to be able to bring our very best lenses – the Platinum Glass lens directly to the final consumer. The lenses have special optical properties: 400 UV protection, and they are produced in glass with rare earth elements and featuring anti-reflexive and hydrophobic coatings. These properties translate into excellent contrast and unrivalled colour brilliance. By using a method for combining two glasses with different properties and characteristics, we are able to propose a series of truly extraordinary performance lenses. Naturally all our clients can use these lenses too. Barberini Eyewear is not using these exclusively.

Q: In 1985, Barberini made use of the Lms technology used by NASA for the outer shell of the space shuttles. In 2004 you have “flown” with the eagles and the Italian hang-glider Angelo d’Arrigo – what are your next extrem

A: In 2007-2008, we took part in the World Gliding Championships with an extraordinary collection of lenses which was immediately acquired by a famous luxury fashion brand. Currently we are planning to continue in this way because gliding represents an optimum sports in which to test the sunglasses and of course of the lenses, as it is an activity in which the sight, selection of colours and visual acuity are extremely important.

Q: Have you always invested in research of polarised lenses. What is new in the field?

A: At Mido we presented a revolutionary polarised lens. Until today we have created these lenses by joining two glass pieces of the same thickness, but since our challenge is to reduce the thickness to make them as light as possible, we have created an asymmetrical polarised lens with an external thickness of 1.4 mm and an internal thickness of just 0.3 mm. The complete lens has a total thickness of 1.8 mm. The greater thickness of the outside part therefore optimises the use of the glass with the rare earth elements, photochromic properties, and so on. As regards the polarising film, this is supplied by our Korean subsidiary. At a global level, there are very few companies that produce polarising film and they give priority to their leading customers. Furthermore, they do not need to make further developments as they propose the polarising film in around 3-4 colours exclusively. For Barberini, it is fundamental to guarantee a security of supply and stability in the provision of the film, as polarized lenses represent around half of the total Barberini’s production. We wished to head up the research and development in this area ourselves. Today we are at a point where we can offer a range of around 30 different colours in polarizing film.

Q: Please take this occasion to talk about the benefits of glass lenses – their properties such as strength and lightness –dispelling traditional prejudices.

A: The public associate glass with a positive image of naturalness and purity. From our point of view, our aim is always to propose lighter lenses. Nowadays a frame with glass lenses is no longer recognised by its weight. The glass lenses also have properties such as being impact, scratch and abrasion resistant,  thanks to its hardness (it can be worked upon only with diamonds). It also has an absolute transparency, a purity defined by the Abbe index. Moreover, the optical precision is such that its rigidity ensures that it keeps its shape and maintains for ever its specific properties. For this reason there are no precision instruments using plastic lenses. A glass sun lens is an optical object and is manufactured with the same techniques used to make camera lenses and lenses for microscopes.

A glass sun lens is an optical object and is manufactured with the same techniques used to make camera lenses and lenses for microscopes.

Q: What base curve can you achieve?

A: Up to 9.

Q: Is the glass recyclable?

A: Yes of course. The most expensive glass that we use is 100% recycled via our company in Germany (Barberini GmbH) and the less expensive glass is sent to other Italian companies who use glass as a primary material.

Q: What are the latest trends?

A: In recent years we have launched very bright coloured mirrors which have been hugely successful. For the last two years we have been working with gradient colour coatings and the most recent challenge has been to create multi-gradient lenses in two or more colours. We have two types of client: those who follow fashion trends, to whom we propose the very latest colours and a niche market which requires specific technical lenses – with performance and protective properties for specific sports such as golf, gliding or deep water fishing. 

How do you maintain leadership in this sector?
To remain in the glass lens sector it is important to be “creative” in manufacturing equipment and machinery used for the production of glass lenses as there are no companies who produce them, so we have to design and make them by ourselves. This requires consistent investment which not all companies are able to finance in a continuous way.

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