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Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Underpinnings

Posted by Dirck on 26 April, 2011

I am about to dive into some extremely fiddly minutiae.  You’ve been warned.  Let’s have another look at yesterday’s pen:

Sharp eyes will detect the loss of gold plating on the end of the clip, and on the rings, especially the one closest the mouth of the cap.  Note that I do not say “brassing,” the term most commonly applied to this sort of evidence of age and experience in pens.  The term comes from the most common metal used to form the furniture on pens, but that metal is a distinctive colour.  These items are not that colour.

An interesting (for a very limited range of people) conundrum, then.  It is not brass.  What else was typically used?  Well, during the Second World War, brass supplies went largely into making cartridges of firearms great and small, and US pen manufacturers started using silver.  Silver, while technically a precious metal, was not considered particularly important for the war effort, and it’s nothing like as precious as gold and was thus a better economic choice that just casting all that hardware in solid gold.

One of the reasons silver isn’t so popular for these purposes, though, is that it tarnishes.  That tarnish can actually appear on top of the plating, and is frequently a give-away that a certain pen was made during the war.  This stuff, however… doesn’t tarnish.  Also, while Sheaffers and Watermans (yes, that is the correct plural) put one to some trouble in working out their age, Parker was extremely accomodating to the collector and stamped the pens with obvious and unambiguous date codes.  This one was made in 1939, sometime between October and December.

The war started in September of 1939, with the invasion of Poland.  Therefore, tarnishing oddity aside, silver makes sense.  Problem solved!

Well, no.  From the perspective of the US, and therefore of this pen, the war started in December of 1941, when this pen was two years old.  Brass was plentiful and even less expensive than silver.  The question is still open.

…and remains so, for the moment.  I’m comfortably certain it’s not pewter.  I doubt it’s steel (note for later– try a magnet).  I don’t really have the mass spectroscopy set-up required for a definitive answer nor the will to use it.  This pen may hold its secret for some time to come.

Today’s less mysterious pen:  Sheaffer Junior
Today’s ink (could be made of anything): Herbin’s Vert Empire

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