The desire for a gold nib
There comes a point in every fountain pen users life when they get the itch to upgrade! The Lamy Safari and TWSBI ECO have been great, but it is time to move to the holy grail… a pen with a gold nib!
For many, this search for the best pen for them means people gravitate towards gold nibs, meaning many great steel nibbed pens are pushed aside for good.
This is an article for seasoned collectors and newbies alike!
Today we will look at this hype around gold nibs and ask if they are always worth it?
Traditionally, most fountain pens came with hand-made gold nibs. These vintage nibs became defined by their flexible nature and smooth writing quality. For these reasons, many collectors prefer to stick to vintage nibs exclusively!
Today, gold nibs have evolved and don’t quite have the flex or craftsmanship of their vintage counterparts, but many are wonderfully smooth writers.
Some brands (such as Aurora, Pelikan and Montblanc) still make their nibs in-house, under the strict supervision of their chief ‘Nibmeister’. These companies are now in the minority, with the majority of brands turning to Bock or Jowo to manufacture their nibs. This has had the effect of reducing the price of some gold nibs, thanks to the economies of scale employed by Bock and Jowo, but it has meant many pens end up having the same nibs.
The expectation of a gold nib to be included on any pen priced above about $100 has created a divide and perception amongst consumers. The belief held by many is that gold nibs are expensive, so they must be better and steel nibs are cheap and most likely nasty.
This perception means many collectors will not even consider buying a steel-nibbed pen, but I believe this means they are missing out on some truly amazing pens, and deals.
Let’s look at a couple of apples to apples (ish) comparisons, to see what a gold nib does to the price of a pen.
The Safari is one of the most popular entry-level pens and can be had for as low as $25 brand new. As well as the standard Safari, it is possible to buy a gold nib for your Safari for around $100! So just to get your gold nib, it will be more than 4x the cost of a standard Safari.
Diplomat Excellence A
Another interesting comparison, as this pen is available with either a gold or steel nib, with the same body. The steel nib version of this pen (by the way the steel diplomat nib is incredible! The Diplomat Aero writes as well as any gold nibbed pen!) will set you back $165. Meanwhile, the same pen with a gold nib is priced at $310. Again, this is a huge jump in price simply for one change.
Many custom and boutique pen makers such as Franklin-Christoph, Conid, Carolina Pen Co etc… offer the choice of nib options. These are normally standard nibs from Bock that have been tuned by the pens maker or a nibmeister. In this case, the price difference between a steel nib and a gold nib is around $100.
So I guess it really comes down to the question of if spending that extra money really heralds a worthy jump in performance.
Some great steel-nibbed pens
So if you are going to look at some fountain pens with steel nibs instead, here are a number that might be worth your while!
Faber-Castell Ondoro, Loom and Ambition
All geat pens with the same smooth steel nib at the heart! In our opinion, these are some of the best bang for buck fountain pens on the market.
Read our review of the Loom here!
TWSBI pens provide the full package; fun looks, great nib performance and good value! Basically, you can’t go wrong with any of the pens in the lineup.
You can buy TWSBI pens starting from $30 here!
A unique and distinctive design from the German company Diplomat, the Aero is inspired by the huge zeppelin. They have one of the best steel nibs I have ever used and are availbe in a number of great finishes.
You can get a Diplomat Aero for around $150!
If you want an even classier option, the Pelikan M205 takes on many of the same characteristics of its older siblings, all whilst sitting at a far lower price point of $120.
Any number of custom makers who use Bock nibs!
There are hundreds of small custom pen makers who can make a pen just to your specification. Sure you may not get the handmade gold nib, but with the money you save, you can get yourself a truly one of a kind pen!
Why would I do this though?
Really it comes down to the allocation of resources. If you set aside $300 for a fountain pen purchase, you could very easily go out and buy any number of high-end gold nib pens.
Alternatively, you could purchase a pen such as the Diplomat Aero for $150, then buy five very nice inks and a couple of lovely notebooks.
Of course, all of this is not to say that gold nibs are a waste of money and you should never buy one! My favourite pens have gold nibs and I wouldn’t change a thing about them. The quality and unique characteristics of many high-end pens cannot be truly replicated by mass made steel nibs. Furthermore, a pen must be considred holistically, for instance, the design and finish of the pen are also huge contributing factors to the price of high-end pens.
I do believe that many people have a rather negative perception of steel nibs and this leads to people not even considering some amazing pens. If you are looking for a good value purchase, it might just be worth buying a steel-nibbed pen and add a whole bunch of great accessories to your cart with all of your savings, or just save the money!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Are you a fan of steel nibs or will you stick to gold?
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