Artificial Eyes
by Paul, Jenny and Emily Geelen

Peter Rowsthorn of the ABC’s Can We Help Programme investigates Artificial Eyes

Pete Investigates – Episode 19

Glass eyes used to be made out of glass until WWII. At the time, all good glass came from Germany and due to the war; the supply of glass from Germany was restricted. This shortage drove some very clever dental technicians to come up with the techniques of making artificial eyes with acrylics which were used to make dental dentures at the time.

These days, 90% of the world’s artificial eyes are made of acrylic. The benefits of using acrylics mean that they don’t break when they are dropped and can be fitted specifically to fit the eye socket. In comparison, a glass eye is blown to a generic shape.

Pete thought that the artificial eye would resemble the shape of an eye. Wrong Pete, artificial eyes have never been spherical. Jenny says that about 15 or 20 years ago, implants were invented that fit at the back of the eye socket, this is a round ball that fills in most of the shape of the eye socket. The ocularists then make a thin shell that fits over the implant at the back of the eye socket. The implant has muscles attached to it which means that artificial eyes have very good movement.

Artificial eyes are individually tailored which means that the process of making them is labour intensive.

The process commences with an impression of the eye being made. The ocularist and the patient have a sitting where the iris is painted. The iris button is embedded in the white mould derived from the impression, the mould is then painted in intricate detail.

There are no courses for ocularists; Jenny and her brother Paul were taught the art by their mother. It is no surprise that they are in high demand internationally and Jenny’s brother Paul Geelan travels to the Philippines and Bahrain to make artificial eyes and is even starting clinics in Dubai and Malaysia.

So there is only a very small market for glass eyes in Germany and other countries around the world. It may be time to rename glass eyes acrylic eyes!