SAN DIEGO (MainStreet) — Some artists use paint. Others use clay.
But Bernie Oberlender, of Oberle Opticians, uses black diamonds, white diamonds, platinum and gold.
And his canvas is the frame of your sunglasses or eyeglasses.
“No other store in the country does this,” say Oberlender, who refers jokingly to his passion for customizing glasses with diamonds and gold as a “a sickness.”
“I don’t know anyone else doing this kind of jewel work,” Oberlender says.
Oberlender’s custom, bejeweled glasses often begin with a sketch and take anywhere from three to five weeks to create. The lengthiest part of the process involves finding enough diamonds of equal size to complete the design he or a client envisioned. Once the diamonds are in hand, diamond setters drill holes meticulously in the frames, where each precious stone is set.
When complete, the frames sell for a price nearly as stunning as the jewels adorning them.
The collection on display in Oberlender’s Bal Harbour, Fla., store includes a pair of Maybach frames with 86 full cut black diamonds. The frame is titanium, with temples of rare Macassar ebony wood from Southeast Asia. And the price tag is $8,900.
There are also several Cartier frames he’s decorated with white diamonds, which start at about $9,500.
And those are on the cheap end of the spectrum compared with others the native New Yorker has designed and sold. Oberlender says most of the frames he customizes sell for between $10,000 and $15,000. But Oberlender adds that he’s “had the privilege” of designing a pair of glasses that sold for upward of $50,000.
He insists the aim is not simply making expensive glasses, though. Far from it.
“I feel we’re creating art — we’re taking a great frame and taking it to the next level,” Oberlender says.
So who wears such expensive glasses? Beyonce, perhaps? And husband Jay-Z? And for what sorts of occasions? Actually, clientele for the glasses come from all over the world, including Turkey, Spain and Israel. And as for when they’re worn, well, Oberlender says, that depends on the person.
“Some save them for a rainy day and others wear them regularly -- they live in that world,” Oberlender says.
If you can’t jump on a plane to Florida to sit down with Oberlender and design your own pair of diamond-encrusted glasses, not to worry. He will work with you over the phone, faxing or emailing sketches so you too can have fabulous glasses for a rainy day.