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.
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.