One of the most common questions I hear online when people are asking for identification of their pen is, “Is this nib Gold?” Well, today we’re going to take a look at some of the most common nib markings to help you identify whether or not that pen you found in the attic/grandmother’s basement/the antique store is indeed Gold.
Let’s start out with the basics. Gold is measured by fineness in Karats (or Carats, to be addressed more below) and is in parts of 24. So, 24kt gold is pure gold. Anything other than pure 24kt gold is alloyed with some other material. The combination of materials alloyed gives way to whether or not a nib is more flexible than not.
14kt gold is 14 out of 24 parts pure gold, or 58.5% gold. So anytime you see a nib that says 585, it is 585/1000 gold, or 14kt
18kt gold is the minimum gold content required to be called solid gold in France and is 18 of 24 parts pure gold or 75% or 750/1000
21kt gold as can be found on many Sailor nibs is 21/24ths gold or 87.5% or 875/1000.
In England and in other parts of Europe it is common to see nibs marked 14ct instead of 14kt. This can sometimes be helpful in identifying a vintage pens origin.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s there were some companies making steel or brass nibs and gold plating them. By law, these are required to marked as gold plate, but some companies were stamping the word “Plate” so low on the nib that when inserted into the section, all the customer would see would be “14kt Gold”. Many third tier (or worse) manufacturers in the 1930’s used gold plated steel nibs.
Many second and third tier fountain pens from the 1920’s-1940’s will sport a nib marked “Warranted”. These nibs were warranted to be proper gold content and do not reflect any certain brand or model.
Vintage Sheaffer nibs include a serial number on triumph (or conical) nibs. This number wasn’t really listed anywhere and doesn’t mean much.
Vintage Esterbrook nibs utilized a four digit numbering system that was based partly on their vintage dip pen nibs preceded by a fourth, thousandths digit that indicate the series of nib, so:
1xxx = standard durachrome, smallest sized nib
2xxx = durachrome, slightly larger nib
3xxx = Sunburst style nib which was actually tipped
5xxx = durachrome nib for dip-less pens
6xxx = experimental prototype nibs
7xxx = Sunburst style nib for dip-less pens which was actually tipped
8xxx = Palladium Silver nibs (WWII production) or used for sunbust style durachrome XXF nib
9xxx = Master Renew-Points which were actually tipped and highly polished.
Visconti uses Palladium for their nibs and marks them as 23kt nibs, so 23 out of 24 parts Palladium, the remaining part an mixture of metals. Also marked 950, or 95% pure Palladium.
Remember the color of the nib does not indicate what type of material it is, you have to look at the markings to make sure. Some companies will rhodium plate or ion plate their gold nibs.
Some companies indicate other markings on the nib as well. For some this can be confusing. Some Platinum nibs are marked 3776, which is the height of Mount Fuji in Meters.
Similarly many Montblanc nibs are marked 4810, the height of Mont Blanc in Meters.
Today many manufacturers mark the nib size directly on their nibs (EF, F, M, B) for ease of identification. Some more uncommon marks include:
MF (or sometimes a FM) = Medium Fine or Fine Medium (Sailor uses MF, Pilot FM)
H = Hard – as found on Sailor nibs
S = Soft as found on Platinum and Pilot
UEF = Ultra Extra Fine Platinum
C (or BB) = Double Broad (Platinum calls the BB a C nib)
MS = Music Sailor
Z = Zoom Sailor
LEFTY = Nib by Sailor specifically ground for left handed writers
1.1 = 1.1mm Stub or Italic (depending on the company)
1.5 = 1.5mm Stub or Italic (depending on the company)
O = Oblique when preceding another marking, so OM = Oblique Medium, OB = Oblique Broad and so forth.
There are lots more different identifying marks on nibs, but these should get you started!
Ink it up!
Brian & Lisa