Having purchased a used Aurora Optima (blue with gold trim; fine nib) from Richard Binder a few months ago, I was already impressed with the Optima’s finish, craftsmanship, writing ability, blah-blah-quality-cakes (thanks, Television Without Pity!). So I started thinking about getting another Optima because I’m weird that way. Forum reviews, personal prefernces, etc. all led to my purchasing a red “Auroroloide” (marbled red finish) Optima with a broad nib from Classic Fountain Pens, Inc. (aka, nibs.com). Mr. Mottishaw and his team were very helpful in tweaking the pen to my preferences (right-handed writer, uses moderate pressure) and it arrived 3/17/08 via UPS 3-day (forgot about that pesky thing known as a “weekend”). The shipping box was in good condition with lots of tape and packing peanuts to keep everything safe. The pen itself was packed in: an outer cardboard box, and then a presentation box itself. The presentation case itself is about the same size as a cigar box; it’s covered in shiny, wood-patterned paper emblazoned with the “Aurora” logo. The box contained a registration card and booklet about Aurora—company background, filling information, warranty details, etc.
Appearance and Finish:
As you can see in the attached photos, the pen is a deep red material that Aurora calls “Auroloide.” My guess is that it’s more acrylic than actual celluloid. The barrel and cap are a deep yet vibrant red with lighter-colored flecks throughout. The piston knob, section, and cap’s end-piece are black resin. These parts (minus the section) are trimmed with rhodium-plated furniture, which complements the rhodium-plated nib nicely. There is a lovely company imprint on the barrel which contains the “Aurora Italia” logo in the middle, surrounded by text that reads, “Fabrica Italiana di penne a serbatoio.” I could not find any design flaws on my pen and even 8 days later, it’s still a gorgeous, flawless pen.
The clip and cap ring are also rhodium-plated and feel very solid. Aurora modified their cap bands recently, as described here but I can’t tell which is the new band design and which was the original. Either way, my pen’s cap band is flanked by the Greek key motif, with the words “Italy” on one side and “Aurora” on the other. According to Classic Fountain Pens, the Optima weighs 21.5 grams, and measures:
5 inches when capped
6.125 inches when the cap is posted
4 inches when un-capped
Overall, the pen is very light but feels sturdy. I tend to leave it un-posted to protect the finish but when I do post the cap, the pen still feels well-balanced.
Nib Design and Performance:
The broad nib is 14kt white gold and easily screws out for cleaning or to swap in a different nib. I probably have small-ish handwriting but I tend to prefer medium and broad nibs anyway. The pen is a dream to write with. So far, it seems to prefer J. Herbin inks best but I’ve also used Aurora, Pelikan, Noodler’s, Private Reserve, and Waterman inks in it too. I would say that the nib is smooth but controllable on the page. Depending on the ink, it can be a wet writer or a dry writer. The feed is ebonite.
The Filling System:
The Aurora Optimas use a piston-fill mechanism that can hold about 1.8 milliliters of ink, with a small ink-view window between the section and barrel. The filling mechanism works flawlessly.
Cost/Value: It appears that Aurora has raised their prices over the past few years, which took some getting used to. While Nibs.com might not have the lowest price available, I was very glad that I could have the pen tweaked to my way of writing and know it would be a good writer straight out of the box. Having had some issues with other pens in the past, where they were fussy upon receipt, I was very happy that as soon as I inked up my Aurora, it wrote like a charm. So yes, you can buy this pen at Amazon.com—but what might you be giving up to save a few dollars?
I love this pen! It’s now become one of my daily writers. My only caveat is the price since it is a pretty penny, regardless of who you purchase it from (and you can’t even fault the vendors really—the price of gold went up, inflation, perhaps Aurora wants to shift gears towards a more luxury market, etc. and so on). If someone had to pass this pen over for that reason, I wouldn’t fault them. Otherwise, it is a wonderful pen.
Also, if anyone can correctly translate the imprint text, I'd be much obliged.
And now, here are links to some photos:
This photo just shows the Optima in its full length, minus the cap (um, oops. sorry about that)
A closer look at the nib and section. Please note that the nib had some ink residue on it when the picture was taken
A writing sample, using J. Herbin's Rose Cyclamen ink on Moleskine ruled paper. The quote is from internet comic, Sluggy Freelance because I was bored.
Edited by Sonnet, 25 March 2008 - 16:31.