Monday, August 6, 2012

Jewel-tipped pens

Recent posts have made passing mention of the precursor to the iridium-tipped gold nib. Here is an example of one of these rare jewel-tipped nibs. The construction is more clearly visible from the underside.
The metal of the nib wraps around each of the gemstone tips, holding them in place with the assistance of some sort of cement. Although these nibs offered some flexibility, the bending action took place almost entirely towards the back of the slit, giving a feel harder than desired for those accustomed to the quill, flexible all the way to the tip. This same criticism was leveled at the first iridium-tipped nibs, too -- but it was not long before the new nibs were being made with quill-like flexibility.

Jewel-tipped nibs were made for a relatively short time. They were very expensive, and were never mass produced. Surviving examples are few, with fewer still retaining their gemstone tipping fully intact.


Brandon said...


Is this for only dip pens? If so, who made these types of nibs, and how is their writing capabilities? Waterman make any jeweled tip nibs?

David said...

I am not aware of any fountain pens of this era equipped with a jeweled-tip nib. These nibs became obsolete with the advent of iridium tipping. This was first successfully tried in 1834, with large-scale production under way by the end of the 1830s.

This all long predates Waterman and the advent of the mass-produced fountain pen.

Brandon said...

Thanks David,

I was not aware of how early this particular dip pen was. Do you know what kind of jewel was used to tip the pen? Or how it writes...

David said...

Ruby is the stone usually mentioned; that would be consistent with the examples I've seen. As for writing qualities, we can cite John Foley, writing in 1875: "Some of his points were made of rubies set in gold sockets; but these nibs were clumsy and could not be wiped clean, and all the elasticity that could be given to the Pens was too far from the point, so that the best of them felt hard in the hand while writing. This seemed a difficulty not to be overcome."