While even in prehistoric time Inuit peoples wore flattened walrus ivory glasses to block harmful reflected rays of the sun, the earliest historical reference to sunglasses dates back to ancient China and Rome. The Roman emperor Nero watched gladiator fights through polished gems.
In China, sunglasses were used in the 12th century or possible earlier. These sunglasses were made out of lenses that were flat panes of smoky quartz. They offered no corrective powers nor they protect from harmful UV rays but did protect the eyes from glare. Ancient documents describe the use of such crystal sunglasses by judges in ancient Chinese courts to hide their facial expression when they interrogated witnesses.
James Ayscough began experimenting with tinted lenses in spectacles around 1752. Ayscough was steadfast in the belief that blue-or green-tinted glass could potentially correct specific vision impairments. Protection from the sun's rays was not a concern at this time.
Glasses tinted with yellow-amber and brown were also a commonly-prescribed item for people with syphilis in the 19th and early 20th century because one of the symptoms of the disease was sensitivity to light.
In the early 1900s, the use of sunglasses become more widespread, especially among Hollywood movie stars.
Inexpensive mass-production of sunglasses started in 1929 when Sam Foster introduced them to America. Foster sold his sunglasses on the beaches of Atlantic City, New Jersey under the name Foster Grant from a Woolworth on the Boardwalk. These sunglasses were made to protect people's eyes from the sun's rays.
Polarized sunglasses first became available in 1936, when Edwin H. Land began using his patented Polaroid filter when making sunglasses.
Sunglasses even played a significant role during the World War II, when Ray Ban created anti-glare aviator style sunglasses, using polarization. Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses became popular with the celebrities and the community in 1937 when they started to be sold for the public.
Today, sunglasses with UV protection has almost become an industry standard, and there are a lot of tints available for sunglasses, and sunglasses styles are changing every year.