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Life's Fine Points

The World's finest pen makers are crafting works of art that fit in the palm of your hand
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99

(continued from page 1)

Though uniquely colored celluloid treasures have shaped Pelikan's proud history since it launched a piston-filling fountain pen in 1929, this industry stalwart is also issuing a golden delight. Its $2,000 "White Gold" pen with an Art Deco look is an exact replica of a work introduced in the 1930s, and while slightly smaller than the much-acclaimed marble jade "1935" or deep blue "Concerto," this gold-over-brass divertissement still carries the weight of Pelikan's corporate credo, "the best functioning pens in the world."  

"Indicative of German precision, Pelikans are extremely well made," says Geoffrey Berliner. "They have one of the softest nibs in the market, and overall, are a throwback to timeless pen virtues."  

Such high praise was once reserved for Parker and Waterman. Now owned by Gillette, both companies have tried to recapture their former marketplace pizzazz by fashioning pens that evoke 1920s glories. Parker has reissued its fabled emerald-eyed "Snake" at $12,000 (the original classic fetches about $25,000 in the secondary market) and also offers an 18-carat "Duofold Presidential," while Waterman tickles a cigar lover's fancy with its sapphire-blue "Edson," a torpedo-shaped collectible that salutes company founder Louis Edson, the patriarch of pendom's golden age.  

The 1920s look is also a staple of six-year-old Bexley, the company that produces Cigar Aficionado-logoed writing instruments. After the smokin' success of its colorful cast-acrylic "Cable Twist" and filigreed gold or sterling silver "Decoband" pens, this rising star is now flaunting a "Gold Line," arctic blue, granite and terra-cotta hued pieces with cast acrylic barrels and vermeil caps, for $390.  

"While we've only been known for making larger pens, now we're designing writing instruments for both genders, those with large and also small hands," says Bexley president Howard Levy. "Discerning males are still vital to us. But the trend these days is towards smaller pieces."   Taking its cues from the legendary craftsman Peter Carl Fabergé, his workshop lieutenant Michel Perchin, and their Czarist-era fantasies, the Renaissance Pen Co. is styling guilloched and bejeweled pens suitable for any royal court.  

The firm has already immortalized Czar Nicholas II with the "Coronation Yellow," a gold plate or sterling silver ensemble with 14 layers of translucent enamel. Now there's the "Blue Serpent" pen. Modeled after Faberge's fabulous Blue Serpent Clock Egg, the $3,900 pen from the "Michel Perchin" line is a sweet-stroking medley of cobalt-blue enamel over guilloche with a white metal serpent coiled over the clip. The hard-fired glass "Fleur-de-Lis" and sterling silver "Blue and Gold Ribbed" are in a sense, "revolutionary."  

For pens that just might be mightier than any sword, Renaissance presents its "Couture Collection." An assemblage of solid 18-karat gold and pavé-set diamond collectibles, these one-of-a-kind trophies are all glorious, particularly the $160,000 "Crown Jewel." Patterned after the Vatican's papal crown and studded with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, pearls and rubies, the "Crown Jewel," due out next year, is guaranteed to signal heavenly wealth.  

Even the finest pens, however, are fragile, and must be treated as delicate objets d'art. They can be stored in velvet-lined chests or leather cases, if desired. If you're not the type to give such meticulous care to life's finer points, Alfred Dunhill has borrowed a page from Superman: it claims that its black, carbon fiber pen with a white gold nib is virtually indestructible.  

If savoring life's pleasures is more enticing than soaring over tall buildings, light an A. Fuente Hemingway (not the pen), and describe your blessings in earnest with an Omas, Namiki, Montblanc or other fine example of the penmaker's craft.

Edward Kiersh writes frequently for Cigar Aficionado.

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