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Jeweled 17th-Century Glasses or Apple’s AR Headset: Which Eyewear Option Rocks Your World?

Humans have been trying to protect their eyes and enhance their vision in style since the days of the Romans. In the 17th century, Mughal artisans fashioned the Halo of Light and the Gate of Paradise—two pairs of gem-set spectacles fitted with diamond and emerald lenses—which were thought to give the wearer special powers. This year, Apple announced something along the same lines with the Vision Pro: a headset that lets you play games, do work, and watch films and TV shows in an immersive environment that blends the real and virtual worlds. But which do you want giving you double vision?

WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING THROUGH

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The Halo of Light’s lenses were reportedly cut from a single 200-carat diamond. A 300-carat Colombian emerald is believed to have been used for the Gate of Paradise.

WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING THROUGH

A micro-OLED system with 23 million pixels in two displays. It’s like a 4K TV for each eye.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU GET?

Gems. And what best complements gems? More gems. It’s believed that the lenses were set in new silver and gold frames in 1890 and surrounded by rose-cut diamonds.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU GET?

A dozen cameras, five sensors, six microphones, spatial audio, and an iris-scanning system in a lightweight aluminum-alloy frame. Less high-tech: the knit headband.

THE SUPREME LEADER WHO SUMMONED IT

An unknown prince of the Mughal Empire, a dynasty founded in 1526 that ruled much of South Asia for over 300 years.

1172252234 - Credit: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

THE SUPREME LEADER WHO SUMMONED IT

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., a tech kingdom established in 1976 and based in Cupertino, Calif. Empire still conquering.

1496199225 - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

WHAT THEY PROMISE

Scholars say the diamond lenses were designed to help wearers reach enlightenment, while the emerald version protected against evil. So basically a 17th-century version of the red kabbalah bracelet everyone was wearing in the early 2000s.

WHAT THEY PROMISE

According to Apple, the new headset “seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world.” So basically the Internet, on your face.

WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

Remarkably hip and versatile, in round and teardrop profiles. Pair them with a top hat for a steampunk party or a boa for when Elton inevitably goes on tour again.

96403234 - Credit: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

A high-tech pair of ski goggles similar to those worn by Luke Skywalker on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. Pair them with The Empire Strikes Back.

1460908986 - Credit: Mark Sennet/Getty Images

Mark Sennet/Getty Images

DO THEY COME IN PRESCRIPTION?

Don’t mess with the gemstones. Just wear your contacts.

Contact lens 3d - Credit: Stock Adobe

Stock Adobe

DO THEY COME IN PRESCRIPTION?

Inserts will be available.

WHAT YOUR FRIENDS WILL SEE

A perfect excuse to ask for a loan.

WHAT YOUR FRIENDS WILL SEE

Digital versions of your eyes on an external screen, so people around you feel “connected.”

COST

Estimated value of the pair is $7 million.

COST

When they’re released in 2024, they’ll have a base price of $3,499.

DESIGN FLAW

The Mughals might have included a matching chain to prevent them from getting lost at the beach.

DESIGN FLAW

A long wire connects the device to a pocket batter pack, which makes the technological marvel look like an overgrown 1950s hearing aid.

CAN I GET ONE?

Probably not. Only one of each style was made, and Sotheby’s listed them both at auction in 2021.

CAN I GET ONE?

Probably. Around 200,000 units are expected to ship next year. But we suggest letting them work out the kinks and waiting for version 2.0.

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