Dutch Hipsters Embrace Eyeball Jewelry; Tiny Platinum Charms Are Surgically Placed in the Whites of Their Eyes

November 20th, 2013


Just when we thought we've seen it all, this cringe-inducing morsel appeared in the pages of Allure magazine. In a piece about unusual fashion and beauty trends from around the world, we learned that hipsters in Amsterdam are embracing eyeball jewelry — tiny platinum charms that are surgically implanted into the whites of their eyes.

Apparently, eyeball jewelry, also known as extraocular implants, leaves conventional tattooing and body piercing in the dust. It's the latest, most extreme new dimension in the art of body modification. It also looks pretty cool.

In a 15-minute procedure that takes place under a local anesthetic, a licensed ophthalmologist makes an incision with a small scissor in the interpalpebral conjuctiva – the eye's transparent outer membrane. Then, a wafer-thin platinum charm is slipped through the incision into the white part of the eye.

Charms are available in a number of shapes, including a heart, star, half moon, four-leaf clover, Euro sign or musical note. Manufactured by Hippocratech in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the jewelry is gently curved to fit the eye and is approximately 3.5mm (0.14 inches) wide. The jewelry may be positioned anywhere in the white of the eye.

Branded as JewelEye, these purely cosmetic implants were first developed at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery (NIIOS) in 2002 using a technique that had been intended as a means for controlled drug delivery in glaucoma patients.

“In my view it is a little more subtle than [body] piercing,” said Gerrit Melles, director of the NIIOS. “It is a bit of a fun thing and a very personal thing for people.”

The NIIOS claims that the jewelry implant is completely safe. It does not impair eyesight, peripheral vision or the ability to move one’s eyes.

Critics of the procedure have warned that something as simple as eye rubbing could impale the implant into the eye, creating a surgical emergency with a likely loss of vision. Other concerns include the possibility of inflammation, scarring, bleeding or the charm’s migration into the orbit behind the eye, making it virtually non-retrievable.

JewelEye procedures start at $1,100 and are currently available only in the Netherlands.

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