AURORA SOLE AUREA MINIMA (SOLE ‘MINI’)
Limited Edition, 750 Fountain Pens.
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.
Inside the box was the tiny, very cute and very bright leatherette presentation case, which barely measures 5” long.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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).
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.
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.
Edited by Phthalo, 21 July 2008 - 11:46.