Why are Some Sunglasses So Expensive?

Portrait of an imposing well dressed man in sunglasses. Luxury. Men’s beauty, fashion.

It seems as though everybody wears sunglasses. For a sunny day at the beach, a walk in the park, or a vacation, they are a must-have accessory. It is not just in the summer that sunglasses should be worn; in the winter it is important for eye health to sport a pair of shades. They are perfect for protecting eyes from UV rays, improving vision in the low winter sun, or shielding eyes from the cold winds. With this in mind, it is no wonder that a year-round accessory like sunglasses can often be very expensive.

How Expensive Can Sunglasses Be?

Luxury designer fashion items can often reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost. The old business myth that something is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it may not always be true, but it can apply here. The most expensive pair of sunglasses cost an estimated $400,000. Made by luxury Swiss jeweler Chopard, they feature 60 grams of 24-carat gold, as well as over 50 diamonds. Chopard sunglasses have been worn by a number of celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Elton John.

What Makes Some Sunglasses So Expensive?

Celebrity endorsement, like those that wear Chopard, could be one of the reasons that some sunglasses are so expensive. Celebrities endorse the most famous brands, and the luxury that the association brings means the price of designer eyewear can be raised. Equally, image-conscious famous people may not want to be associated with what could be perceived as cheap items. They are high fashion items.

On the business side, a major reason for the price of sunglasses is who controls the industry. Luxottica Group have been accused of operating a monopoly in the world of eyewear. They own the majority of the most well-known sunglasses brands: Ray-Ban, Oakley, Prada, and Chanel. Andrea Guerra, CEO of Luxottica, claimed in 2014 that “at least half a billion (people) are wearing our glasses now.”

Since merging with French lens makers Essilior in 2018, they have unprecedented power in all aspects of the industry, from manufacturing to retail. According to an article in UK newspaper The Guardian, “The new firm will not technically be a monopoly: Essilor currently has around 45% of the prescription lenses market, and Luxottica 25% of the frames.” Controlling such a large amount of the manufacturing, as well as over 9200 stores in which to sell their product allows them to control the market and at least in part, decide how much to charge.

Is Cost the Marker of Quality in Sunglasses?

It is easy to forgive a person who, after seeing a pair of sunglasses that cost $300 and then seeing a pair that costs $30, believes that the more expensive pair is far superior. While it is not always the case, an affordable pair of sunglasses can be of as good a quality as a high-end designer pair. Wholesale suppliers such as Olympic Eyewear offer bulk designer sunglasses and fashion sunglasses. Their products are of high quality and avoid the huge markups put on them by major brands and retailers. Charles Dahan, who was a leading supplier of lenses for LensCrafters (also owned by Luxottica), is critical of the control that Luxottica have: “There is no competition in the industry, not anymore…Luxottica bought everyone. They set whatever prices they please.” He was also vocal about the high markups from the inside, “It’s ridiculous. It’s a complete rip-off.”

It is important to remember that high cost does not always guarantee high quality, and equally applies to more affordable items.