J. Herbin - Éclat de Saphir
La Société Herbin, Maître Cirier à Paris, was established in 1670. This makes J. Herbin probably the oldest name among European ink makers. Today, Herbin produces a range of beautiful fountain pen and calligraphy inks, writing instruments, gift sets and accessories. Herbin inks are made in France, and the finishing touches on the bottles are still done by hand in Paris.
J. Herbin is probably best known for their inks in the "La Perle des Encres" series. In this review, I take a closer look at Éclat de Saphir - a good-looking blue-with-a-bit-of-purple ink, that to my eye belongs to the Royal Blue / Sapphire Blue family of colours. The ink writes very purple when wet, but quickly dries to a standard royal-blue colour, with the purple still there just below the surface. The ink is quite saturated, and works well with all nib sizes and with all types of paper (white as well as more yellow ones). Shading looks best in M-nibs and broader, but remains subtle without too much contrast between the light and darker parts. Quite nice.
The ink has excellent lubrication, even in drier pens like my Lamy Safari. With wetter pens like my Pelikan M120 with M-nib, the ink leaves a very saturated blue line, and in the process loses most of the shading. My guess is that with wetter pens, you need broader nibs to bring out the shading again.. To illustrate the colour span of Éclat de Saphir, I did a swab on Tomoe River paper where I really saturated portions of the paper with ink. This perfectly illustrates the ink's colour range, which moves from a fairly light to a really dark royal blue. The purple undertones surface most easily in the lighter parts of the swab.
On the smudge test - rubbing text with a moist Q-tip cotton swab - the ink behaved perfectly, with only minimal smearing. Water resistance is not so good: the ink disappears quickly from the page, but leaves behind a ghost image of the original text, which can still be read when using some effort. Your writings will not be lost, but it's definitely not a water-resistant ink.
Éclat de Saphir dries fast on all my test paper, typically in the 5 to 10 second range. That was a surprise, because it writes with a really wet line - I would have expected longer drying times from this ink. I've tested the ink on a wide variety of paper - from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. On each scrap of paper I show you:
- An ink swab, made with a cotton Q-tip
- 1-2-3 pass swab, to show increasing saturation
- An ink scribble made with a Lamy Safari M-nib fountain pen
- The name of the paper used, written with a Lamy Safari B-nib
- A small text sample, written with an M-nib
- Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib)
Éclat de Saphir looks great on both white and more yellowish paper. I didn't detect any noticeable feathering, only with the notoriously bad Moleskine paper some barely visible feathering is present. With the lower quality papers in my test set (Moleskine, Generic paper), there is however significant show-through and a tiny bit of bleed-through. You can check this for yourself at the end of the review, where I show the backside of the writing samples.
Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. All samples were written with a Lamy Safari, which is typically a dry pen. I also added a visiting pen - a wet Pelikan M120 with an M-nib. Here the ink leaves a very saturated dark-blue line, taking away most of the shading that shows up with drier pens. The ink contrasts very well with the paper, even in my EF nibs. With run-of-the mill office paper, you typically need smaller nib sizes to compensate for the lower quality of the paper. Combine this with fast drying times, and you have an ink that is quite at home for office-related note-taking. And even though Éclat de Saphir looks like a standard Royal Blue, there remains that purple undertone that makes it just that bit more interesting.
To compare Éclat de Saphir with related inks, I use a nine-grid format with the currently reviewed ink at the center. This format shows the name of related inks, a saturation sample, a 1-2-3 swab and a water resistance test - all in a very compact format. I hope that you'll find this way of presenting related inks useful. It's a bit more work, but in my opinion worth the effort for the extra information you gain.
Inkxperiment - Visit to the Lands of Faerie
As a personal challenge, I try to create interesting drawings using only the ink I'm reviewing. I find this to be a fun extension of the hobby, and these single-ink drawings often present a real challenge. It also gives you an idea of what the ink is capable of in a more artistic setting. For this abstract landscape, I experimented with using HP premium photo paper as a medium. I started off by wetting portions of the paper with water, and drawing in the horizon line with the trees and parts of the foreground. The water on the photo paper lets the ink bleed out nicely. I then applied some bleach - purely as an experiment to bring in some highlights. Next I completely submerged the paper in water, and added some drops of ink. This reacted nicely with the photo paper, resulting in the light blue-purple haze that covers most of the drawing. Once dry, I painted in the fence and little girl in the foreground. I quite like the end result, which shows off the eery magic of Faerie land. You also get a good idea of what Éclat de Saphir is capable of in a more artistic setting.
J. Herbin Éclat de Saphir has a royal blue style colour with a definite purple undertone. The ink works great with all paper types, is well saturated, and shows good contrast with the paper even in the finest nibs. This is an excellent choice of ink for use at the office - not too extravagant, but still playful with that purple undertone just below the surface. Personally, I'm not particularly fond of this type of blue - but there's no denying that this is a very good ink. If you like the colour, you will not be disappointed if you give Éclat de Saphir a try.
Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib
Backside of writing samples on different paper types