Although similar in some ways, there are some major differences between eyelets and grommets. Though both of them are used to strengthen holes used for lacings, eyelets are usually smaller than grommets and are not as durable. Eyelets are more commonly used when strength and durability are not as critical, while in many cases, grommets are reserved for lacings that will see frequent use and excessive stress. The most common metals use for eyelets and grommets are brass, nickel, and tin.
Both eyelets and grommets are circular rings with extended backs. They are often used in clothing and accessories such as belts, purses, and corsets. Eyelets and grommets are also used to reinforce the holes that shoelaces must pass through. Their extended backs are designed to bend under pressure so that the metal fans outward to create a secure covering for holes. Without the use of eyelets or grommets, the holes could tear through to the edge, which would render them useless for lacing.
One of the most important differences between eyelets and grommets is the backing. Grommets come with flat rings that fit underneath the extended backs to create more reinforcement for the opening, but eyelets typically do not have this extra piece. The reinforcement offered by an eyelet comes only from the fanning of the metal that extends from the front.
Eyelets are usually used with fabrics or leathers that are lightweight and do not require a great deal of pressure for penetration. This is because eyelets are constructed of thinner metal that may crack if a great deal of pressure is used in their installation. Grommets, however, are stronger and can withstand a great deal of pressure without being damaged. Machines are usually used for installation of eyelets and grommets in mass-produced items, but they can be installed at home using hand-held devices.
In most cases, grommets are much more expensive than eyelets, and are usually easier to find. Grommets are often used in home furnishings such as shower curtains and slip covers, and because of this, they can sometimes be found at hardware stores and home furnishing centers. Eyelets, however, are usually only available at sewing or fabric centers.
Unlike grommets, eyelets are often painted and available in a wide variety of colors. The color choices available for eyelets make them preferable for belts and accessories intended to color match background fabrics. Grommets are typically only available in the original color of the metals they are made of, though in some cases they can be found in black or white.