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Aurora Sole Mini - A Closer Look


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#1 Phthalo

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 10:37

Aurora is Italy’s largest and most acclaimed pen manufacturer. Founded in Turin, Aurora have been making stunning writing instruments since 1919. Their collection includes inexpensive ballpoints, well-known classics such as the 88 and Optima, and beautiful limited edition items. Aurora writing instruments are predominately constructed from precious metals, patented shatter-proof resin, or marbled celluloid-acetate known as ‘Auroloide’.

AURORA SOLE AUREA MINIMA (SOLE ‘MINI’)
Limited Edition, 750 Fountain Pens.


First Impressions

The first Aurora I thought I would buy was the Optima Mini, the size and colour being the main attraction. However, when the identically sized and very beautiful Sole Mini range was launched, I knew it was for me. The original Aurora Sole was a full-size Limited Edition fountain pen released in 1996, and the 2006 Aurora Sole Minima range celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Sole LE.

I purchased my Sole Mini from Oscar Braun, and found Pam to be a total pleasure to deal with. Payment was easy, and shipping was super-fast, with my Aurora arriving in Australia two days before it was expected! Somehow I managed to finish a couple of chores I had been doing around the house, before I finally took the package into my office. I setup up a camera, opened the package and started documenting the heavenly experience of handling my first Aurora.

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Inside the box was the tiny, very cute and very bright leatherette presentation case, which barely measures 5” long.

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Aside from this gorgeous pebble-texture case, the instruction / warranty booklet was the only other thing inside the box. I like this minimalist approach very much. When I bought my Montegrappa, the opulence of the box made me instantly wonder how much I was paying for the packaging.

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The Sole Mini, in all its tiny glory.

Appearance / Finish (5*)

The barrel and cap are made from turned and highly-polished Auroloide - a beautiful and rich marbled celluloid. The colour is ‘Yellow Marble’, the only colour the Sole Mini is available in. Generally, the Sole Mini looks a vivid orange-yellow colour, but when the light catches it, the colour shifts to a pure golden-yellow that glows with warm highlights.

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The barrel section, piston knob and cap-end and made from glossy black resin with gold-plated accents. The colour contrast is very complimentary and striking. The pen is beautifully constructed, with all parts secure and flush fitted. I couldn’t find a single blemish.

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Anxious to preserve this perfect finish, I looked through my pen boxes and found a small leather pouch from one of my Jean Pierre Lepine pens (above). The Sole Mini fits neatly inside this pouch, and can now safely travel around with me.

Design / Size (5*)

The gold-plated cap clip is gently tapered, and ends with a pronounced ball, making it slide quite easily onto a shirt pocket. The number of each limited edition pen is engraved in gold into the flat, black resin cap-end, and positioned opposite the cap clip. The cap features a gold-plated band with a burnished double-border which is engraved with a Greek key design and ‘AURORA’. The inner cap threads are turned from extra material on the cap itself, with the cap unscrewing in one full turn, then posting onto the end of the barrel.

The black resin nib section is warm and smooth to the touch, with Aurora positioning the cap threads at the beginning of the section, closest to the nib. This is contrary to most designers, where the threads are high on the section. I like the position of the Sole Mini threads, as sometimes my long nails can make things hard to handle and these threads provide nice grip. The section features a small ink view window, which is subtly nestled between two gold-plated bands.

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(Small Pens: Orange Montegrappa Micra, Green/Black Pelikan M300, Aurora Sole Minima.)

As a lover of small pens, the compact and well-balanced size of Sole Mini is utterly perfect for my hand. At 4.4” (113mm) long when capped, this pen is a delightful little handful. Uncapped, it measures 4.1” (105mm) long, and with the cap posted, just over 5.3” (135mm) long. A half-inch shorter than a M400, both pens weigh about the same when filled, with the Sole Mini having a slightly more solid, quality feel.

Nib Design / Performance (5*)

Aurora nib design primarily consists of single-toned, solid gold nibs with attractive scrollwork and circular vent holes. The Sole Mini features a beautiful and small solid 18K yellow gold nib, whose delicate appearance and size compliment the pen perfectly. The nib is slightly smaller than the nib on my M300, and as with most of my pens, I chose an Extra Fine point.

After I had ordered my Sole Mini, I thought about how devastated I would be if the Extra Fine nib did not live up to my expectations. Many manufacturers appear to have no clue as to how an EF nib should perform, and as someone with extremely small handwriting, I have simply found most ‘EF’ nibs to be woefully disappointing (the Sheaffer 14K Triumph Extra Fine and Account nibs are my benchmark). But, upon examining the nib of my Sole Mini, I was comforted to find a very small point, and after filling the pen, I began writing with what I can honestly say is a true and correct Extra Fine nib.

Oh. The. Joy.

The utter joy of buying a pen, requesting a nib, and simply getting a nib which writes exactly as you hoped for is a joy I do not often experience. I was so impressed that I began to have wild thoughts about selling my Pelikan and Montegrappa pens and becoming an Aurora-only girl.

The firm EF nib writes beautifully and with minimal line variation - it is a real pleasure to use. I cannot really comment on the Aurora 'tooth, because all of my nibs have feedback, but I did find the feedback from my 18K Aurora EF to be almost the same as the feedback from my 14K Sailor EF (the Sailor is a slightly more wet writer also).

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I have filled the pen with an ink I mixed specially for the occasion. It is a dark golden-ochre shade, and was created primarily from R&K Helianthus, PR Shoreline Gold and PR Copper Burst. In the Sole Mini the ink flow is extremely well controlled, and I imagine thicker inks may feel a little drier than normal in this pen. I have not experienced any skipping or hesitation from the nib, and when left uncapped for a half-hour, I wrote easily on the first stroke.

Filling System (5*)

The Sole Mini features a piston-filler system and thus fills exclusively via a bottle. The piston mechanism operates firmly - but not stiffly - and the piston knob feels solid and secure when turned. I would estimate that the ink capacity is similar to that of a Pelikan M300.

Cost / Value (5*)

The US RRP of the Aurora Sole Minima is in excess of $450US, but street prices are easily one hundred dollars less. At present this pen is not yet available in Australia, and when I inquired locally for pricing, I was told that the RRP will be almost $900AU. By purchasing online from the US I saved 50%, and am able to own a pen which would otherwise be out of my reach.

Similarly priced and sized pens I considered in place of the Sole Mini, included the Pelikan Souverän M450/M425, the Omas 360 Mezzo, and the Omas Princess. Eventually I decided that: a) although I own five Pelikans, I find them too plastic-y and their F&EF nibs are to wet and awful, b) the 360 Mezzo only fills via a cartridge, c) Princess discontinued thus overpriced and rare to find EF nibs now. While there is no doubt that Pelikan piston-fillers are terrific value for money, I have happily paid extra for my Sole Mini with better construction, and a far superior nib. I could have purchased a Souverän and had the nib modified, but why would I, when my personal nib preferences can be met by a brand which gives me a pen which writes correctly out of the box.

I do feel the Sole Minima could be a little cheaper, as it is essentially a yellow Optima Mini – the specifications are identical. However, it is new, and a LE, and I’m so pleased with it that I can forgive Aurora for the extra $$$ and marketing hype.

I'm so pleased in fact, that if Aurora made the Sole Mini LE in three different shades of yellow, I'd buy all three. However as those three little yellow pens are just a little fantasy of mine, I will console myself by buying the Aurora Optima Mini later in the year.

Final Thoughts

The Aurora Sole Minima is my first Limited Edition fountain pen, and as far as LE pens go, the well-priced Sole Minima is an attractive choice. The sturdy construction and beautiful celluloid finish, along with the piston-filler and truly Extra Fine nib, make the Sole Mini a wonderful pen to own.

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Edited by Phthalo, 21 July 2008 - 11:46.

Laura / Phthalo
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#2 Judybug

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 11:23

This is an absolutely GORGEOUS little pen! Congratulations! And the photos are great.

I'm prompted to ask a question. I notice the threads - where the cap screws on - are adjacent to the nib. I only have one pen that has a screw-on cap and the threads are higher up - away from the nib. Does the position of the threads on the Sole Mini make it at all uncomfortable to hold? Probably not. I don't suppose anybody grips a pen that close to the nib. Just wondering. :blush:

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#3 Phthalo

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 11:58

I always hold my pens quite close to the nib. No right on the edge of the section, but close. You can see in the nib photo how small the grip section of the Pelikan M300 is. I can feel the edge of the section under the tip of my index finger, and the threads further up my index finger - but it's not uncomfortable, I don't really notice it.

It's a hard thing to explain, but in the second when you take hold of the section after uncapping the pen, your fingers do that walk toward the nib, the same one where they may rotate the pen if it's not straight, and in that second, they just kind of find their place.

In short, I didn't notice the threads on the Aurora. :)
When I pick up the pen, the very tip of my index finger lands just against the topmost thread. When I held the pen for the first time, I didn't notice that the grip felt different to any other.

I'm glad you like the pen and the photos! :D
Laura / Phthalo
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#4 NG-Huy

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 13:39

Glad to see you have your Aurora Sole earlier than expected :)

Very nice review and another proud owner of an Aurora Sole mini on FPN!

Which number did you get?

Like Laura, I wasn't bothered by the grip at all, this a pen I put on everyday use with my Platinum maki-e music nib.

#5 RyanL27

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 14:06

Excellent review and pictures, Laura! That is certainly one beautiful, little pen. Your photographs remind me of Worldlux's, which I consider to be the best of any online seller. Great work!
"I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them."
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#6 andyr7

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 16:38

Laura, very pleased to see you spent your tax refund wisely in the end! Your pictures are also great - why am I the only one in the whole of FPN unable to produce a decent artistic photograph?!

Hope you keep enjoying the pen.

Andy

#7 Phthalo

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 22:09

Andy: The tax refund is still unspent! Oh the potential... ;) (I'd love a CS Nightingale - they are gorgeous! But cartridges only. :()
Laura / Phthalo
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#8 NG-Huy

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Posted 19 July 2006 - 22:15

Why not waiting for an Aurora Mare Mini now? Blue color is very nice too!

#9 andyr7

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 07:39

(I'd love a CS Nightingale - they are gorgeous! But cartridges only. )

Same problem with modern CS Dinkies, so you did right to save your money. I still suggest you look out for a nice 30s Dinkie, though!

Pen dealers throughout the world will be on red alert now they know your tax refund is still available!!

Andy

#10 Phthalo

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 09:12

NG-Huy: Nope... while the seahorse motif on the Aurora Mare is pretty cute, I don't like the colour blue!
I don't have any blue pens, and I don't use much blue ink...

You will have to tell me all about the Blue Mare if you get it though. Posted Image


Andy: I will look out for a vintage Dinkie - I have been looking at them a lot more closely, and I'm seeing a few I like!

#11 JRodriguez

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 00:49

Great review. Aurora has over the past few months become my favorite pen maker. I love the "tooth" and use my Optima and '88 more than any other pens I own. Glad to hear there's another fan. Enjoy!

#12 zorroflores

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 05:35

Great review, great pictures, great pen! and quite nice color in the ink you managed to obtain..

Edited by zorroflores, 25 July 2006 - 05:36.


#13 Dillo

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:52

Hi,

Well, I need an Optima Mini, and now you make me want a Sole mini! :doh:

Great review and nice pen! :)

Dillon

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#14 meanwhile

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 17:39

This is one of my favourite reviews on the entire site! I LOVE orange and yellow pens, and the energy and enthusiasm of the colour really comes through in the review.

How about posting the exact formula for Pthalo's Orange?
- Jonathan

#15 southpaw

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 21:09

Great review! While the pen is definitely too small for me, it was truly a pleasure reading of your obvious delight in finding what appears to be nearly the perfect pen for you. CONGRATS, and enjoy!
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8, NKJV)

#16 Phthalo

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 09:13

Yes, I must admit I am extremely pleased with this pen. I can't wait until I have it's pretty Bordeaux mate. :)

JRodriguez: Yup, the Aurora nib seems to be quite a special little thing.

zorroflores: The ink is nice - but weird! If I leave the pen uncapped for 5 mins it darkens considerably, then by the time I've written half a line, it's gone back to a nice mid burnt-orange colour. Very attractive and interesting.

Dillo: The Optima is next...but the Sole is so very pretty. You would like it I think! (Even with the barrel width being greater than the M300.) I think the Aurora is prettier than the Souverän M320 too. :)

meanwhile: If you like small pens, you would certainly like the Sole. :) I wish I knew how I arrived at my 'Phthalo Orange' - it was a very inexact recipe! It was roughly 65% PR Shoreline Gold, 30% R&K Helianthus, 2% PR Copper Burst and 3% Pelikan Brilliant Brown - or close to that. ;)

southpaw: Thanks, it's certainly become a favourite - and it's still making me think of selling the 'others'.
Laura / Phthalo
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#17 Dillo

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 18:00

Hi,

Thanks, Phthalo!

Dillon

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#18 Maja

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 08:19

blush.gif blush.gif
Oh wow, how did I miss this excellent review (complete with gorgeous photos ohmy.gif ) ??


Thank goodness you linked to it when you reviewed your Aurora Mini Optima here, a few months later! What a gorgeous little pen. If I didn't see it next to an M300, I would have thought it was a big fountain pen! I only have one Aurora pen--an Ipsilon in a matte salmon colour--but I am very pleased with the way it writes. I like nibs with a big of "tooth" (feedback) smile.gif


(edited to correct link)

Edited by Maja, 22 November 2006 - 08:40.

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#19 Phthalo

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 08:52

Maja - glad you liked it! Thank you!

Either of these Auroras deserve to be on any small pen wish list. biggrin.gif
Laura / Phthalo
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#20 Dillo

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 14:38

QUOTE(Phthalo @ Jul 19 2006, 05:37 AM)
Eventually I decided that: a) although I own five Pelikan’s, I find them too plastic-y and their F&EF nibs are to wet and awful,

Hi,

Even though I like Pelikans enough to apply for dealer ship, I have to second you here.

The points on my own Pelikan F and EF pens (Level, M200s, M300, and M425) are all modified and reground to my specifications. (No custom grinds...I just realised...I always fix my own pens if needed...)

Hmm, I will keep looking for a good price on the Aurora. smile.gif I have three Auroras now, an 88P, Duocart, and a Madamin that is winging its way here, older ones...

The Auroras that were sent here for adjustment felt very solid with a nice feel. I hardly ever see any Auroras in my shop (they are too good to need fixing I guess. biggrin.gif ).

If you have small hands, the M425 is not very well balanced because of that sterling blind cap. wallbash.gif

Dillon

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