This Thursday, Pen Boutique owner Leena asked me to make a list of ideas for Valentine's Day pens, so when there weren't any customers in the store I spent quite some time looking in all the display cases with Valentine's Day in mind, getting inspired. I ended up with a very long list of pens, accessories, and inks, and thought a lot about Valentine's Day from the perspective of a lover of fine pens, so I asked Leena if I could write this week's blog on the topic.
She liked the idea, so, on Friday, I chose some of the pens from my list to bring home and spend the weekend with. As I became more intimate with the pens, I realized that a Valentine's Day gift of a pen is such a personal thing that for me to say, "Here are my seven picks for great Valentine's Day pens!" would be absurd. Instead, I want to talk about how to choose a pen for your Valentine, and use these pens as examples.
Are fine pens romantic? Yes! They are beautiful, luxurious/special, sensual, and pleasurable to use. They are long-lasting (unlike flowers or chocolate), and remind the recipient of the giver whenever they are used. Should you give your Valentine a fountain pen? Maybe, maybe not. Do they already enjoy using a fountain pen? Have they expressed interest in trying one? Keep in mind that fountain pens require cleaning and inking regularly. If your Valentine wouldn't be interested in that, a better choice would be a nice ballpoint or rollerball. It doesn't have to be a fountain pen to be special. Ballpoints and rollerballs can be just as beautiful, and you want your loved one to use your gift, not put it away in a drawer. I chose a variety of fountain pens, ballpoints, and rollerballs for my imaginary recipient, and found them all to be a joy and pleasure to use, each in their own way.
The first pen I experimented with was the Sailor 1911L White GT ballpoint. It's hard to explain what attracted me to this pen or made me feel it was Valentine-ish. It's not red, but white... but the color just looks so luminous and elegant. It reminds me of pearls, a gift I was once surprised by because it made me feel that the giver saw me as elegant and sophisticated. I wasn't sure they suited me at first, but then I realized they do. I love how the pen looks in my hand, and how the oversized "cap" section makes the pen perfectly balanced, as if the spot just before the ring is a fulcrum in a level.
My first thought when I used the pen was, "WOAH, the feeling when you twist the barrel to extend the tip... so smooth." I can't even describe it. It's so pleasurable, it was hard for me to resist turning it "on" and "off" over and over again. (You just have to be careful not to go too far, or the pen unscrews.) The pen writes equally as smoothly, with a fine line that seems appropriate for a Sailor pen. Almost all the Sailors we carry are fountain pens, and I didn't even realize they made ballpoints until I noticed this pen, but I think that if I were to want a Sailor, I would choose this one. It would also be perfect for someone who loves Sailor brand fountain pens, for those times when a fountain isn't practical!
After the Sailor, I tried the Pineider Avatar UR ballpoint in "Angel Skin." This pen really impressed me with its aesthetic details. I adore the way the pen is presented in the box, and the unusual slanted inner box design that is higher in the back. When you take off the lid, the pen is at the perfect viewing angle, waiting for you to admire it.
Using the pen gave me a totally different feeling than the Sailor, but it was equally nice. The act of extending the tip has a very distinct on/off feeling, almost like a switch. The ink that comes with it is nice and dark and writes with a broader line than the Sailor, like a medium vs. a fine. It offers a little bit of aural feedback, in a very quiet and subtle way that is nice. The shape of the pen is so beautiful and Florentine, and the construction of the clip is incredibly graceful. I love how it is held together with a pin. Our website describes it this way: "Thanks to 3D engineering and high precision manufacturing, each individual pen is assembled without using a single drop of glue. A technological puzzle! Every component precisely fits each other by simple framed parts." So cool.
There are so many details about this pen that you appreciate more as you use it. I didn't notice until I had written with it for a little while that the beautiful ring depicts the Florentine skyline and that the shape of the clip is inspired by a feather, tying it to an earlier form of writing instrument. I loved using this pen to jot down thoughts for the blog late at night when I was feeling more relaxed. The ring sparkled in the dim light and caught my attention. In the soft light of morning, the "Angel Skin" color is so evocative and sensual. The body of the pen is a resin and mother-of-pearl compound that makes it shiny and impact resistant, and allows for an incredible depth of color. This is not a girly pink, but an adult and sophisticated one.
The next day, I tried the Cross Botanica Red Hummingbird Vine rollerball, a pen that draws the notice of a lot of customers. It comes in fountain, ballpoint, and rollerball, and in a choice of Green Daylily, Purple Orchid, and the Red Hummingbird Vine. I chose the red to take home because it feels the most classically Valentine-ish and also because a wonderful customer fell in love with it a few weeks ago and I loved seeing her delight in buying this pen as a gift for herself, as her first special pen. She is an avid letter writer, and was excited about the pleasure she would get using a pretty pen for her correspondence.
This pen feels so sturdy and well made. The grip section is lightly vertically ribbed, which sparkles in the sun and allows for a much more precise hold on the pen, as it is not slippery. I love how long the grip section is, which allows for a range of different hand positions. The ribbed texture feels very nice in the hand and I really like that tactile feedback. The barrel of the pen is also subtly textured--the silver parts of the floral design are slightly recessed, which also helps them catch the light and sparkle. The pearlescent ivory lacquer is a lovely color and the whimsical floral pattern is cheerful and eye catching. I feel like this very feminine pen would delight and inspire a lover of gardening. There really isn't any other pen like it!
The next pen I tried was the Parker Sonnet Premium Refresh Rollerball, in Metal and Red with chrome trim. I have always admired this handsome pen in the store, and find its classy Art Deco cap very attractive. I like all the Parker Sonnet Premium Refresh designs in this series, but the burgundy red one with the architectural looking arches is my favorite. The etched stainless steel detailing is very, very nice. I like how this pen looks and feels both vintage and modern. It comes in ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain, but I prefer the rollerball and fountain models visually because the design is more striking when featured on the cap rather than integrated into the pen. It's fairly slim, but nicely weighted and feels sturdy and well-made. The grip is a nice length and is slightly textured steel. I like the metal feel of this pen.
My other rollerball selection was the Visconti Rembrandt rollerball in Pink Rosa. I really loved this pen! It has a more liquidy flow than the other two, with no feedback. Very smooth. The soft color is extremely attractive and restful to look at, with subtle dreamy swirls in the resin. It's a warm, almost peachy shade of pale pink that has a human glow. It reminds me of a marble statue come to life, which feels appropriate for a pen from Florence. The Ponte Vecchio bridge-shaped clip is a gorgeous iconic arch.
I love how this pen looks modern and simple, streamlined and elegant. The shiny silver stainless steel grip is a little slippery, but everything else feels lovely--the weight, the balance, and, most of all, the pleasure of the look of it in my hand. Using the unique magnetic twist cap is an additional pleasure... the cap pulls straight off to remove, but is guided back on with a magnetic system that closes it with a slight twist at the end and locks it into place.
What about my fountain pen picks? At first, I intended to recommend the red Pilot Falcon, which is a beautiful deep red that seems perfect for Valentine's Day. I love the Pilot Falcon with a Soft Fine nib, and have written about it in one of my earlier blog posts. However, when I was standing in front of the shelf of Falcon boxes, I reached for the Plum Purple one. I realized later I hadn't brought home any solid red pens, and I wondered if this had been a mistake. But no... I think my instinct was correct. What I wanted to convey with this choice is that you shouldn't feel like you need to get a classic red or pink pen just because it's Valentine's Day. Maybe your lover loves purple, or green! Maybe the perfect shade of blue would match their eyes, or a pale pen would contrast beautifully with their dark skin. Elegant silver might remind you of their hair, or gold match the wedding ring you gave them.
One of the most romantic couples I have ever met is a pair who visited the store multiple times while vacationing in January. You could tell they adored each other, and the husband kept asking me to show him green pens that had caught his eye, because he knew his wife loved green. Nearly every time I showed him a pen, he'd ask me questions about it and then say, "I'll take it." His wife browsed in another part of the store so he could surprise her, and watching the joy he got out of choosing gifts for his fountain pen loving sweetheart made me so happy.
So, think about what your partner loves. When you buy a gift for your Valentine, you want to make them feel special, show them how you feel about them, and show them that you care about them and care about what makes them happy. What colors do they like? What is their style? What would suit them, even if they may not realize it themself? What is more than they expect, more than they imagine?
If they are new to fountain pens and have a Pilot Metropolitan, treat them to a "next level" gold nibbed Pilot like the Custom 74... if they have a gold nibbed pen already, a semi-flex gold nib pen like the Falcon would be exciting and something new to try that they might not buy for themself.
Speaking of pens they might not buy for themself, my final Valentine's Day pen choice was another one I have been admiring in the store: the gorgeous Aurora Optima Riflessi fountain pen in Sterling Silver. This pen drew my attention a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to stop looking at it.
The body of the pen is a sterling silver guilloche and the nib is 18k gold with rhodium plating to match the pen. The elegant Greek Key pattern on the ring is reminiscent of 1930s fountain pens, as is the shape of the pen itself. It feels lightweight for a sterling silver pen, but very solid, and I really like the flared grip, which feels extremely comfortable and allows good control when you're writing. The weight and balance feel good to me both capped and uncapped. The nib is fairly firm and offers a decent amount of feedback but is very smooth. It's a piston filler with an easily removed screw-in nib like in a Pelikan, which is wonderful for easy cleaning.
The best part of this pen as a gift, though, is the impression it makes. The large and very heavy presentation box it comes in wows you right away. It's protected by a substantial glossy black outer cardboard box that is thoughtfully designed to allow easy removal of the simple and classy storage box within. This elegant matte black wooden hinged case looks like a jewelry box, and is adorned only with the Aurora logo. When you open the lid, you reveal the pen secured under a leather strap on a padded black leather platform with a silver emblem telling you about its 18k solid gold nib. There are leather pull tabs on either side of the platform, and underneath is a second level containing some booklets, a polishing cloth, and a bottle of Aurora Black ink. (Note: there is plenty of extra space in this area, and it would be an awesome place to hide a love letter or an actual piece of jewelry in a jewelry box if you really wanted to go all out and surprise your Valentine!)
This is a pen that could easily just sit on your desk to admire, but it's not too fancy, delicate or precious to write with every day. When you use it and the pen turns slightly in your hand as you move back and forth across the page, the diamond-shaped pattern catches the light and sparkles like a fine watch or bracelet. Aurora's motto, "Il Segno di un Sogno" -- "The Sign of a Dream" seems apt.
Well, I hope my thoughts about choosing Valentine's Day pens have been helpful. My taste might be totally different from yours and your lover's, but the same general concept applies no matter what pen you choose. The details are important. The intent is important. Making your Valentine feel special and loved is important.
And remember, if the pen you pick out isn't the perfect one for your Valentine, that's okay! You showed them that you love them and think they are special. They can always return or exchange the pen for one that they love. That's what gift receipts are for. :-) (Please read our return policy.) But, your gift just might surprise them and open up their world to something beyond what they've considered. Take a chance! Happy Valentine's Day!