It comes down to when the nib was made and who.
I chase '50s pens, and some times get lucky with a '30's pens.
A steel nib can be as good as a gold nib, and a gold nib as good as a good steel nib. That a steel nib must be stiffer than gold is a myth.
It comes down to nib geometry. Gold and steel has advantages and disadvantages. Both are formed to take advantage of it's advantages and to minimize it's disadvantage.
Good nibs, are good nibs, and designed then as best as they could be. Today...I doubt if the pen companies try as hard as before.
First the nib must be designed to be used by people that do not know how to even hold a fountain pen. There for be it gold or steel, there will be many more disadvantages in the nib design than back in Vintage pens when all knew how to write.
Osmia made good nibs, both in it's premium line the Supra, and it's lesser line. I have two Supra nibs in steel and one in gold. All three are =. There is not better or worse. Those are great nibs.
The other three Osmia steel nibs I have are the regular semi-flex nibs. They are very very good nibs.
I have steel Degussa nibs...Degussa bought up Osmia's nib making machines in the early 30's when Osmia was in financial trouble. Those are very good nibs. (I must admit I was surprised...some of course were regular flex, not all were semi-flex. Not everyone wanted semi-flex.)
Osmia got new machines and came out with the Supra.
I have 14 K old Bock nibs that are semi-flex.
I have some steel Bock nibs from the same time that are semi-flex...how ever they must be stubbed, because my wife's uncle did not know how to stub, when he stubbed them some time in the '50s or 60's.
I have steel and gold nibs that are semi-flex from other companies.
One ends up with more gold nibs than good steel nibs because the gold nibs do not corrode while sitting dirty in a drawer for 30 years, like steel will.
It is quite possible that modern steel nibs are worse than modern gold nibs.
I do suggest chasing '50's German piston pens, with semi-flex nibs.
Swan nibs, from the early '50's to '30's.
You get a very good nib, attached to a good pen, for an affordable price.
Semi-flex nibs are to a regular nib as a regular nib is to a stiff or nail. It is not a Flexible nib, it can be used by folks like me who are a tad ham fisted with out springing it. One gets some line variation. It writes smoothly (After a minute or two on the brown paper bag.)
Since my first semi-flex nib a year ago, I have chased only semi-flex pens. I have go lucky and got a couple F-1's too.
I have been unlucky and got regular run of the mill nibs too...when one gambles on Ebay, some times you lose.
I have been very lucky also...I would not buy a modern pen....they do not have what I am now accustomed to, a good nib, a semi-flex nib.If I was to buy a good modern pen, the first thing that must happen is it must be sent to a nib meister to get the nib up to snuff.
Why spend all that money, when one can get a good reconditioned vintage pen with a semi-flex nib for less.
One can also some day chase flexible nibs too...some thing you must send a nib to a nibmeister to get; if he can do it with that with a modern nib.
Modern nibs are a waste of money.
Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 29 September 2010 - 16:23.
Due to Mauricio's improved definition of Super-flex, I try not use the term Easy Full Flex, but fail...sigh.
Semi-flex is an “almost” flex; not a ‘flex’ nib. It is great for regular writing with a touch of flair. It can give you some fancy; but it is not made for real fancy writing. For bit more of that get a 'flexi'/maxi-semi-flex. Both spread tines 3X. Those are not "Flex" nibs.
Odd, how many who should know better, compares Japanese F (which equals EF), with Western F, with out a second thought, but do not compare Japanese B with Western B.
Wider than Normal does not exist. Wider than Japanese does. Every company has it's very own standard + slop/tolerance. Developed from the users of it's pens only; not the users of other companies pens. The size you grind a nib to, is your standard only. Paper and ink matter to nib width. Thank god for 1/2 sizes or it would be boring.