By: Alejandra Serna
About a decade ago, tattoos and body piercing were the extreme side of body art. In recent years, physical alterations have increased with the growing popularity of cosmetic surgery. These two distinct practices seem to have bonded to create a twisted new trend for the new millennium – eyeball jewelry.
This brand new fashion statement was founded in the Netherlands earlier this year. Termed “Jewel Eye,” the procedure has been pioneered by the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery (IIOS) and development institute in Rotterdam in cooperation with an eye clinic near Utretch.
Do you remember those jewel-sticker earrings that were popular with kids a couple of years back? Imagine having a similar, though slightly thinner, object implanted on the corner of your eye. That’s what the Jewel Eye basically looks like.
The process involves placing a 3.5 mm wide piece of specially developed jewelry in the conjunctiva, the mucus membrane of the eye. This is the lining that retains moisture in the inner surface of the eyelids and front of the eyeball. The surgery can be performed in about 15 minutes under local anesthesia and ranges in costs from $800-1,600.
For those of you currently entertaining this idea, you must keep a couple of things in mind. To begin, this “procedure” is in fact surgery. So there are a number of risks attached, particularly in the case of one so new and untested. In addition, remember that although the Jewel Eye seems to be more connected with piercing than tattoos, the opposite should be true.
The jewel can only be seen on the corner of the eye when the eyeball itself is turned to the side. For this reason, Gerrit Melles, director of the IIOS states, “In my view it is a little more subtle than piercing.” The Jewel Eye may be less visible than conventional piercings, but they also have some striking disadvantages as well.
Piercings, despite the permanent mark, are removed. If you get tired of your belly ring, you simply take it out and then put it back in at your own discretion. On the other hand, removal of the Jewel Eye involves a second surgery. It is not a contact lens, but an implant. Another appointment, another surgery and additional fees are required. In this respect, the Jewel Eye is more like a tattoo.
Having established the permanency of the object, the safety of the eye is another topic to be discussed. The IIOS claims that the implant does not interfere with the usual functions of the eye. “So far we have not seen any side effects or complications and we do not expect any in the future,” explained Dr. Melles.
The key words in this statement are the first two, “So far.” Similar statements were made when breast implants were made with silicone. Naturally, this was years before they discovered the fatally poisonous properties of the material. Some might argue that contact lenses provide some support for the Jewel Eye phenomena. If you can insert a lens covering your entire eye, why not a 3.5 mm piece of jewelry?
The answer is simple. “Contacts do not remain in the eye indefinitely,” explained Jay Sanders, head ophthalmologist at Pearl Vision. On the contrary, eye doctors encourage frequent removal and cleaning of lenses as to not harm the eye. Such actions are not possible with the Jewel Eye implant. In fact, only recently have permanent contacts been introduced to the public. Yet, most of these require disposal after a certain period of continual use and most doctors still recommend disposable lenses for optimal safety.
Despite all the red flags flapping around the subject, some still praise the new trend as a unique way for people to establish their individuality and creativity. After all, the implant comes in either a glittering half moon or heart shape. I suppose, if you cannot establish your own sense of self, you might as well pay for a generic one.