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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 2)

But don't despair. If the yen for "Double Dragons" proves all-consuming, geishas, shoguns and other traditional Japanese themes are artfully interpreted in Namiki's "Sterling Silver Collection," a series of $475, torpedo-shaped .925 sterling pieces (only 600 worldwide annually and covered by a lifetime guarantee) that feature a hand-etched butterfly design. "Namikis are beautiful, wonderfully conceived, sturdy fountain pens," raves Geoffrey Berliner. "Their artistry is brilliantly executed." 

Italian craftstmen are equally devoted to shaping hand-wrought classics. Delta, a firm renowned for its red celluloid "Pompeii" pens and carbon fiber and titanium technology, will issue a new four-inch version of the $600 "Colosseum" pen next year, plus the "David," a $1,000 celluloid homage (about $4,000 in platinum) to Michelangelo's famous statue in Florence.

Established in 1982, Delta produces only about 150,000 pens each year (compared to Omas's half-million), which allows for Old World attention to detail: the turning, threading and drilling of every piece by hand.  

Grace and colorful elegance also typify Montegrappa's "Science & Nature," a sterling silver, engraved representation of a microchip circuit diagram and passion flower (only 1,912 of these $1,950 hand-enameled pens will be made), and for a lucky few, Montegrappa presents "The Cigar," an engraved silver limited edition (a mere 200 worldwide) featuring the intricate details of a tobacco leaf.  

The la dolce vita style of Delta and Montegrappa is increasingly leaving its mark among connoisseurs. But these brilliant stars in the pen constellation are not the only Italians redefining the boundaries of creativity. Florence-based Stipula also sparkles, particularly its "Virtus Memoriae." The fourth installment of its "human civilization" collection, this $6,500 solid gold work ($2,500 in sterling silver) is dedicated to Homer's Odyssey. Much like that timeless saga, the pen's low-relief sculpturing honors an age-old Florentine design process known as "lost wax," whereby molten gold and silver is poured into a wax cast, then shaped to create memorable images.  

Hand-carved treasures are also a staple of Aurora, an 80-year-old Turin firm that delighted collectors last year with its virtuoso-inspired "Giuseppe Verdi." While then a bravura treat in vermeil, guilloche engraving and delicate fine lines, the "Verdi" is now poised to write even prettier music, as it's being offered in an all-platinum version with 14 fully cut white diamonds on the cap, for $18,500. Sapphires adorn the equally lustrous "Verdi" done in 18-karat solid gold, for $7,000.   Aurora is following up the "Verdi" with the gold-plated "Jubileaum." This cream-colored, lacquered resin pen will sing praises to the millennium, and promises to be a New Year sensation at $1,100.  

While the Italians are steeped in tradition and elegant refinements, the pen world also has its maverick, a cutting-edge force that is not afraid to flirt with what some critics call gimmicks.  

In the past few years Krone has offered its "William Shakespeare," a deep purple celluloid pen enhanced with an embedded piece of the playwright's Stratford-upon-Avon mulberry tree; the "Abraham Lincoln," complete with a crystallized form of Abe's own DNA in the cap; and the rugged-looking "Sir Edmund Hillary Mount Everest," containing an authentic piece of rock from that legendary peak's summit.  

"We want to make the collecting of pens fun, give this whole legacy business a shot of unique attributes," says Krone president Robert Kronenberger, who's taken to collecting vintage pens himself. "Everyone loves our pens--they're cool, different and, due to our added touches like the DNA and the Bard's own tree, they're the ultimate in personal connection."   Increasingly popular (Terry Wiederlight says Krone is a "definite comer which is doing all sorts of wondrous things"), these pieces are meant to capture the spirit of men facing challenges, and to be "living history."  

Kronenberger is hoping to tap into the charms of an even greater "miracle worker," the spine-chilling monarch of mystery, mayhem and magic, the great Houdini.  

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