I got into fountain pens initially via my interest in italic calligraphy. So, while I have become enamored of pens that are visually beautiful, my principal focus has been on how they write, particularly, italic script. This has required that I have most of my pens’ nibs custom ground. I have found relatively few that can be had with usable stock italic nibs. Most of these are at the low end of the beauty spectrum, to my eye, for example Osmiroids and the wider Lamy italic nibs.
In recent months, I have acquired a few Italian Pens which can be had with stock italic nibs. My latest, which arrived by today’s mail, is the subject of this review.
I had recently acquired two Stipula Etrurias. Both are piston fillers and from Limited Editions - A “Casa Mila” with a fine nib and a “Tuscany Dreams” in brown woodgrain. I sent the Tuscany Dreams off to Yafa for a nib swap to a 14Kt gold 1.1 mm italic nib. The process was a bit of an ordeal and took three months, but this pen with the factory italic nib is a marvelous writer. Both these pens, while large (but not “over-size”) and weighty, are very comfortable to hold and write with. The italic nib had perfect ink flow for me and very acceptable thick/thin line variation. It is only the second high-end pen I have that has a factory italic nib I do not feel needs further customization. (The other is a Conway Stewart Wellington with a IB nib.)
This positive writing experience led to my buying a second Stipula Etruria, but this time already fitted with an italic nib.
1. Appearance & Design (9.5) The photos of this pen on the Chatterly Luxeries/Pentime web site were attractive, but it was not a surprise to find the pen much more beautiful in person. The “Champagne” celluloid is a rich amber background with embedded clear, iridescent highlights and wandering veins of deep, dark blue. I find the shape to be more graceful than the rather bloated appearance of the Tuscany Dreams, for example. The facetted cap and barrel not only make the pen more slender but also keep it from rolling. Since the section is round, the facets have little if any impact on how you hold the pen. The section has a gentle concavity. I find this very comfortable. I prefer pens to have easily changeable nibs, like Pelikans and Auroras. Stipulas have friction-fit nibs that I don’t have the courage to mess with.
2. Construction & Quality (9.5) The pen has a generally high-quality appearance and feel to the materials and construction. The cap screws on and off easily and feels secure when on. The piston works from the blind cap. It is unconventional in that it is turned counter-clockwise to suck up ink. The barrel and blind cap do not fit perfectly smoothly, and the vein pattern in the celluloid does not line up perfectly between the cap and barrel or between the barrel and the blind cap. I regard this as being imperfect but of no functional significance.
Top to bottom: Stipula Etruria Tuscany Dreams; Stipula Facetted Etruria in Champagne; Pelikan M620 Piazza Navona
3. Weight & Dimensions (10) This is a hefty pen. Full of ink, it weighs 42g. For comparison, a fully inked Pelikan M800 weighs 31g. I find it comfortable to write with. When carrying it in a shirt pocket, the weightiness is noticeable. Capped, the Etruria is 5 mm or so longer than an M800, but both are essentially of equal length uncapped. It works for me. The barrel diameter and section diameter may be a hair less than those of an M800. This is of no consequence for their ergonomics, in my judgement.
4. Nib & Performance (10) The nib is 14Kt gold. It has a silver appearance. I do not know if it is white gold or is plated to match the sterling silver clip and rings on the cap. The nib is large. It is pretty stiff. It writes almost butter-smooth. The line differentiation is excellent. The ink flow is very nice - I would call it 7 on a scale of 10. Actually, if I could give the nib a score of 11, I would.
5. Filling System & Maintenance (10) The pen is a piston filler. It works smoothly and appears to suck up more ink than a M800, but I have not measured it. I have not used the pen long enough to fairly judge any “maintenance” issues, but I have no reason to expect problems in this area.
6. Cost & Value (9) This is an expensive pen, even with the very substantial discount from the recommended retail price. I think that, in this class of pens, “value” is very subjective and very individual. Each of the pen lines with which the Etruria might be compared has unique features in design and, often, in materials, that create more value to some than to others. The cost of this pen to me was enough to inhibit further purchases of similar pens…. somewhat. I certainly am happy to have this one. In fact, I expect it to be among my favorites and expect to use it frequently. It’s value is greater (to me) than that of a great many pens that carry higher prices.
7. Conclusion (Final score: 58/60 = 9.7) The Stipula Facetted Etruria in Champagne Celluloid is a beautiful pen, and it writes like a dream. In my on-going quest for the “best” pen for italic writing, this one is a strong contender. Its only real competition is from a few of my best pens with custom-ground nibs, and those are pretty terrific. It is an exceptional pleasure to get such a gorgeous pen that also functions so well in every respect right out of the box.
It’s not a proper part of a “pen review,” I suppose, but I have to add a word about what a pleasure it has been to deal with Bryant Greer again. I’m a fan.