Gold or Steel for fountain pen nibs?

September 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Perceived wisdom is that the best nibs are produced from gold.  The theory is that gold, being a relatively soft metal, ‘moulds’ the profile of its tip to the writer’s style and becomes an intrinsic part of the writing experience.  The style of the nib unit also contributes to the flexibility of the nib while the pen’s overall design and materials will deliver balance and weight. 

However, increasingly, I believe that with modern manufacturing techniques, the arguments in favour of gold as the choice of material for nibs is diminishing.  Steel nibs are increasingly precise in their manufacturing tolerances with finer tynes and, even with limited finishing, an can perform in a similar manner to a brand new gold counterpart.  The wear characteristics will differ between the two materials, assuming that the nibs are used extensively in a set position.  However, for many owners, their pens are only used for an occasional flourished signature or brief note of affection. 

Caran d'Ache Maya gilt fountain with gold plated steel nib

Caran d'Ache Maya gilt fountain with gold plated steel nib

My advice is do use a gold nibbed fountain pen to make your statement but don’t feel you have short-changed yourself if you select a good quality steel nib such as, a Caran d’Ache Ecridor, Cross ATX or Waterman Expert.  Once again, the message must be: Try before you buy.

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