Eyeball Jewelry Debuts


December 17, 2004

Eyeball Jewelry Debuts

Attaching jewelry to the eyeball is the latest in body jewelry, says Merrit Melles, an ophthalmic surgeon with the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery. He told the New York Times he stumbled on the idea while developing implantable devices for treating glaucoma. ''I found a way to safely implant things in the outer layer of the eye,'' he says, ''and I thought, why not make special shapes people could wear for fun?'' He started with hearts and stars but now makes everything from euro signs to Harley-Davidson symbols. Melles uses the word ''subtle'' to describe JewelEye: ''It's not like you'll pass someone on the street and say, whoa, what's in that person's eye?'' But it's impossible not to stare at it when you're face to face.

Here's how it works. An ophthalmologist anesthetizes your eye, then makes a microscopic incision in the conjunctiva, the eye's transparent outer membrane. The doctor drops a tiny piece of platinum jewelry (called JewelEye) into the incision, and the procedure is over. It takes 10 minutes and costs about $4,000, and you spend the next week feeling as if you have a piece of sand in your eye. When the conjunctiva heals, you can't feel it (even when you rub your eye). The jewelry is gently curved to fit the eye. It rests just below the surface, held in place by the conjunctiva, like a charm under Scotch tape.

According to Melles, the risk of infection is lower with JewelEye than with ear piercing, because JewelEye is sealed in the eye and never exposed to bacteria. It doesn't migrate, even after millions of blinks and countless eye rubbings, and it's removable. ''We have seen no complications,'' he says, ''and no reason to expect them in the future.'' So why doesn't he have one, NYT inquired? ''I'm a doctor,'' he says. ''Doctors don't do that sort of thing.''



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