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It has been reported that archaeologists have unearthed an artificial eye that is believed to be 5,000 years old. It was worn by a female believed to have lived in ancient Arabia; she was aged between 25 and 30 years. This is the earliest prosthetic eye ever found. Mansour Sajjadi discovered it in the desert on the border of Afghan and Iran.

The archaeologists described the artificial eye as being approximately 25mm in diameter and manufactured in a bitumen paste. Traces of gold were noted, which would have covered the eye. A round iris was inscribed onto the front surface with fine striations shooting out from the centre. Ancient artificial eyes have also been found in Egyptian and Inca tombs. These very early eyes would not mimic the human eye as they were manufactured from gold and precious stones.


It was not until 1579 that the Venetians started making prosthetic eyes from glass. These eyes were very heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

In 1835, the Germans developed the first hollow glass eye and for many years the Germans held a monopoly on this type of eye, as they were the only country that could produce the extremely fine glass that was needed. In Australia a lot of glass eyes were manufactured by a German ocularist, Mr Scheler who traveled the country and manufactured custom eyes. He also produced a stock eye (or pre-made eye). Hundreds of these stock glass eyes were distributed by Optometrists, and patients would be fitted with the best that could be found from 'off the shelf'. As the glass eyes are hollow and very fine there have been some cases were this type of eye has been known to implode. This is caused through body acids corroding the glass or just with changes of temperature.

With the outbreak of World War 2, exportation of this superior German glass was terminated. But in hindsight this was a good thing as this bought about the development of the plastic eye. This innovation then made the old glass eye obsolete in some countries. Since the war, plastic (or acrylic) has been the preferred material for most artificial eyes wearers. It is also very tough and can be modified.