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Ink Shoot-Out : Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Vs J. Herbin Lie De Thé

pelikan smoky quartz herbin lie de thé brown

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#1 namrehsnoom



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Posted 07 March 2018 - 19:51

Ink Shoot-Out : Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz vs J. Herbin Lie de Thé
Last year, Pelikan pleasantly surprised me with its Ink of the Year 2017 - Smoky Quartz, and I've been really enjoying this smoky brown liquid. Fellow member Jan2016 then suggested that J. Herbin Lie de Thé is a very similar ink. That of course peaked my interest... so I got me a bottle of Lie de Thé and decided to pitch both inks against each other. Time to do a detailed comparison, and find out which of these is the better ink.
Enter... the Ink Shoot-Out. A brutal fight  spanning five rounds, where truly formidable inks do battle to determine who is the winner. And this time it's really a battle of giants! In the left corner - the new star from Hanover and Prussian heavyweight : Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz. In the right corner, the crown jewel of Paris and offspring from a long line of giants : J. Herbin Lie de Thé. The boxing hall is packed to the roof, the crowds are cheering! Let the fight begin and may the best ink win...
Round 1 First Impressions

These are indeed heavyweights with a firm impression on the paper. Both inks leave a well-saturated line with excellent contrast to the page when used with my Lamy Safari M-nib on Rhodia N°16 notepad paper. Both inks also show subtle shading, without too much contrast between the light and darker parts, which I find aesthetically pleasing. The inks look quite similar, but there are some differences:

  • Lie de Thé is a lighter brown, with more yellow undertones. This also shows in the chromatography of the inks. This lighter nature of Lie de Thé is most obvious in swatches, less so in written text.
  • Lie de Thé lays down a wetter line. Smoky Quartz in contrast is a drier ink, but a really well lubricated one. 
  • With broader nibs, e.g. with the scribbles made with a 1.5 mm calligraphy nib, Smoky Quartz shows a bit more character, with a more pleasing appearance.

Both inks make a great first impression. But when they climbed into the ring, the German champion radiated more confidence. I prefer its slightly darker hue, and the fact that it shows more character with the calligraphy nib. These inks are well matched, but for this round Smoky Quartz gets a small advantage from the judge.
The chromatography clearly shows that both inks have lots in common. They have a really similar composition, with only a touch more yellow in the French ink's mix of dyes.
Round 2 Writing Sample
The writing sample was done on Rhodia N°16 Notepad with 80 gsm paper. Both inks behaved flawlessly, with no feathering and no show-through or bleed-through. With the EF nib, the darker complexion of Smoky Quartz comes into play, resulting in more contrast-rich writing. I also noticed that Smoky Quartz leaves a crisper line on the page, especially when using broader nibs. My guess is that this is due to the really pronounced initial wetness of Lie de Thé, which results in a slightly less well-defined line. 
Colourwise both inks look similar in writing, although there is definitely more of a yellow undertone in the J. Herbin ink. Both inks also shade nicely, without too much contrast between light and dark parts. This aesthetically pleasing shading gives more character to your writing. 
For this round, the focus is on writing, and here Smoky Quartz got a slight advantage. It works better with EF nibs, and also shows a crisper line. Not much of an advantage, but enough to result in a win on points. 
Round 3 Pen on Paper
This round allows the batlling inks to show how they behave on a range of fine writing papers. From top to bottom, we have : FantasticPaper, Life Noble, Tomoe River and Original Crown Mill cotton paper. All scribbling and writing was done with a Lamy Safari M-nib. Both champions did well, with no show-through nor bleed-through. But this round is not about technicalities, it is about aesthetics and beauty. Are the fighters able to make the paper shine ?
One thing is immediately apparent: these inks are at home on a wide range of papers, both white and off-white ones. On more absorbent paper like Fantasticpaper (top), the inks look really similar. With Tomoe River - definitely a non-absorbent paper - Lie de Thé shows its lighter nature. But it also lays down a less crisp line, making it look less interesting and losing some of its beauty. 
Both inks are on par with each other, but Smoky Quartz has a slight advantage in the looks department - it shows a more consistent look across the range of papers. For this round, victory is granted to Smoky Quartz. Not a knock-out, but definitely a win on points.
Round 4 Ink Properties
These inks are not fast-drying, requiring 20-25 seconds to dry completely (with an M-nib on Rhodia paper). Lie de Thé takes a bit more time to dry. Both inks are reasonably smudge-resistant. Some colour rubs off when using a moist Q-tip cotton swab, but the text itself remains crisp and clear. Being the lighter ink, the smudging is less pronounced with Lie de Thé. 
To test water resistance, I dripped water on the grid and let it sit there for 15 minutes, after which I removed the water with a paper towel. Both inks are remarkably water-resistant! The brown colour disappears, but a clearly readable dark-grey residue remains even after a 15 minute soak. Really impressive. 
For this round, both champions were well-matched, but Lie de Thé gets a small advantage for its less pronounced smudging. 
Round 5 The Fun Factor
Welcome to the final round. Here I give you a purely personal impression of both inks, where I judge which of them I like most when doing some fun stuff like doodling and drawing. Both inks do well, and allow for some nice effects when using a water brush. I really enjoyed using them.
With both inks, you can coax a broad colour range out of them. Dilute them with water, and you get the yellowish hues used for the background. Really saturate them, and you get a very similar looking dark brown. The foliage in the picture shows the undiluted colour, where Lie de Thé is obviously the lighter coloured ink. But overall, both champions did equally well, and no clear winner emerges. So for this round, I call it a draw - I greatly enjoyed playing with both of them. 
The Verdict
Both inks are real jewels, that work on all types of paper. And being water-resistant, they make fine inks for use at work in an EDC pen. Is there a clear and definite winner? No. But the German champion did show a bit more promise : better contrast with EF nibs, and overall a crisper line on non-absorbent paper. Small advantages, but enough for this judge to declare Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz the winner of this fight.

Edited by namrehsnoom, 07 March 2018 - 20:42.

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#2 Tas


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Posted 07 March 2018 - 20:53

Marvellous !


Thank you.

#3 visvamitra


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Posted 07 March 2018 - 21:06

Excellent comparison. I'll always choose Lie de The but Smoky Quartz is a very good ink indeed.

#4 lapis


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Posted 07 March 2018 - 22:21

Ditto and congratulations on a lot of well-done work. I actually prefer the smoky version (although I love tea and don't love smoking) just because of its increased darkness and richness. Two fantastic inks which must have been waiting for a whole year to be sent off into this duel!


:)  :) 

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#5 minddance



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Posted 07 March 2018 - 23:41

Excellent comparison! I have both inks but never done the work you did here. Thank you! To me, these 2 inks, though rather similar, are not mutually exclusive. I enjoy very much writing with both of them and they work very well indeed in any pen I have - a quality that does not happen with many inks.

With both of them, nuances come in spades. They are capable of producing a wide range of tonal variations, pure art imho, and not the boring dramatic distracting 2-tone 'shading' that some people enjoy very much. With the correct pens and paper, both inks have an 'illuminated from within' look due to the smoothly gradated nuances in shades, there can be real smooth transitions between shades. Now, this is the type of shading that I adore very much. Not the terraced 'shading'.

Might I add that both of them perform very well in my Waterman 12 (flex) pen, railroading is very much minimised or even zero occurance.

(P.s. If you do a 4th pass or 5th pass or even a 6th pass, I am sure there'll be differences. This is how good they are, the tonal variations do not stop at 3 passes. :))

Edited by minddance, 08 March 2018 - 00:02.

#6 5Cavaliers


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Posted 08 March 2018 - 00:02

Great comparison!  Thank you for all the work and effort!  I must say that I much prefer Smoky Quartz in color. 

"Today will be gone in less than 24 hours.  When it is gone, it is gone.  Be wise, but enjoy!  - anonymous today




#7 amberleadavis


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Posted 08 March 2018 - 00:31

I love the shoot outs. Thank you!

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#8 dumaresq



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Posted 08 March 2018 - 06:50

Thank you for this wonderful shoot-out!


Lie de The was my favourite brown until Smoky Quartz came along. I think of Smoky Quartz as the barrel-aged version of Lie of The: gone are the more keyed-up yellow tones, and in their place darker, richer notes appear.


SQ is also the closest FP-friendly ink I've found to walnut ink in a dip pen.

#9 JonSzanto


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Posted 08 March 2018 - 07:02

Very nicely done, both pragmatic and artistic. I happen to concur with your conclusion, as well.

"When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."
~ Benjamin Franklin

#10 Uncial


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Posted 08 March 2018 - 20:02

Nice comparison. Smoky Quartz has more rads.

#11 MsRedpen



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Posted 09 March 2018 - 06:55

Thank you for another fantastic comparison. Extensive, creative and fun!
I am with you on slight preference to SQ.


#12 Chrissy


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Posted 09 March 2018 - 10:07

Thank you for all of the work you did on this.  :)  I love reading these shoot-outs, and think they are fantastic.  :wub:


I'm going to say something that no-one else has said, and that is for me P.E. Smoky Quartz wins for the ink and, hands-down, for it's much better bottle.  :)

#13 namrehsnoom



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Posted 09 March 2018 - 18:46

Lie de The was my favourite brown until Smoky Quartz came along. I think of Smoky Quartz as the barrel-aged version of Lie of The: gone are the more keyed-up yellow tones, and in their place darker, richer notes appear.

That's an excellent way for expressing the difference, and I totally agree. 


And thank you all for the positive feedback. I'm glad to hear that the "ink shoot-out" format works well, and I'm certainly planning to add more episodes to this series ;-)

#14 Mulrich


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Posted 09 March 2018 - 18:57

I'm amazed how similar these look. I really like Lie de The but was meh about Smoky Quartz. 

#15 TSherbs


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Posted 09 March 2018 - 20:36

I like more contrast than either of these inks gives, but this was a great shoot out.

#16 JonSzanto


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Posted 09 March 2018 - 20:46

BTW, for those that are liking this general color pallette and prefer even more variation in tone than either of these, a remarkably nice ink is Stone Road of Gion from the Kyo-Iro series. Available from a couple US suppliers (Anderson Pens, host of the image below, as well as Vanness) as well as in Japan.


Edited by JonSzanto, 09 March 2018 - 20:46.

"When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."
~ Benjamin Franklin

#17 Herrjaeger



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Posted 10 March 2018 - 01:22

Thanks for the well laid out and informative review/ comparison. I enjoy PSQ, and also like Stone Road of Gion.

#18 eyesa



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Posted 11 March 2018 - 13:51

Fab shootout! You've left no stone unturned! I received a free bottle of Smokey Quartz with a Pelikan I ordered. Your shootout prompts me to give it a go. Thanks!

#19 Jan2016


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Posted 17 March 2018 - 20:41

Great shoot-out! Never appeared to me that this colors were so close! And yes, please continue the shoot-outs, I like them very much!

#20 leporeju


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Posted 07 April 2018 - 15:27

Good gravy!! I'm loving the shoot-outs. More, please!  I haven't purchased either of these two inks, but I'm inclined to try the Heribin Lie De The, based on this comparison test, as I like Tomoe paper a lot.


Jon~~I like the addition you offer, too.

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