03 June 2010

Gold Fever

Some days ago I wrote about Danitrio and the utter absurdity of using 24 K gold (pure gold within a 1% error) for their nibs. That made me think about the actual gold content of nibs.

The purpose of using gold lies in its properties as a noble metal, i.e. its great resistance to corrosion. And the rest of properties are second to that. In fact, as Prof. Antonios Zavaliangos (Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA) says, flexible nibs can be made out of almost any material usually employed in the fabrication of nibs.

Japanese pocket pens from the 1970s with differnt nib materials. From top to bottom, left to right, Platinum with fine steel nib, Pilot Myu 701 with fine steel, Morison with fine 14 K, Platinum with medium 14 K, Pilot Telescopic with medium 14 K, Platinum with medium white gold (WG) 18 K, Sailor with fine WG 18 K, Pilot Elite with fine 18 K, Sailor 21 with fine 21 K, and Sailor 23 with 23 K gold nib.

The actual gold content in nibs, we all know, is very variable. Some early nibs, on dip pens many of them, had as little as 9 K (37.5%). Sheaffer itself made a 9 K gold nib in 1955 for the British market. However, some legislation forced this content up in order to being allowed the use of the term "gold" to describe those nibs. Italy and France are very clear: 75% of gold content (18 K) is the minimum in anything called gold. Marketing and the old “more is better” were successful and even nowadays people speak of the “added value” of 18 K over 14 K gold on their nibs.

A relatively inexpensive Fit de Bayard with a 18 K (ct, in french) gold nib. Very nicely springy.

During the early 1970s, the big three Japanese pen companies competed for the market by increasing the gold content in their nibs. Platinum and Pilot reached 22 K (91.7%); Sailor topped them with a 23 K (95.8%) nib, as can be seen on the picture. The trend was a dead end and in three years the companies went back to the usual 14 K and 18 K gold contents. The exception was Sailor, still using 21 K gold in many of its luxury pens together with 14 K gold for cheaper ones. Their argument is still the same—higher corrosion resistance with higher gold content.

California-based Danitrio seems to be the only brand still suffering the gold fever. Only that could explain their interest in producing –or implementing, as they do not manufacture theirs— 100% gold nibs. But that much gold makes the nib quite soft and prone to plastic deformation. The option to avoid that risk is to make them very rigid. However, there is always the concern of whether those Danitrios were pens or mere decorative jewels.

Already mentioned Prof. Antonios Zavaliangos also wrote a very interesting analysis on the materials usually employed to manufacture nibs. The summary of all that is that 14 K gold shows a nice balance between resistance to corrosion, elasticity, ease of manufacturing, etc. It is no coincidence that most of the flexible nibs out there are made of this alloy with 58.5% of gold.

Now the question lies in whether we want or appreciate a flexible nib or not. But that topic is a long one, and almost philosophic.

(Soennecken 110 – Noodler’s Old Dutch)

Bruno Taut
(Tokyo, June 2, 2010)
[labels: Danitrio, plumín, Pilot, Sailor, Platinum, Bayard, Morison]


anele said...

Desde el punto de vista estético (el único sobre el que puedo comentar)me gustan más los que no son de oro.

Bruno Taut said...

Comparto ese punto de vista si se refiere a la Pilot Myu 701. Pero tampoco quiero olvidarme de la Pilot Elite con el plumín enrasado en la sección.

Gracias por el comentario.


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your blog. Never before have I just started in the beginning and read backwards on and on, and on and on. For years. Fascinating.

Bruno Taut said...

I am happy to be that engaging. However, your comment could be applied to any blog given the the absence of details.

Anyway, thanks for passing by and commenting.


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