Graf von Faber Castell Pen of the Year: “Nature’s Luxury”

The Pen of the Year Collection, or as we call it abbreviated: The POTY, has become one of the pillar yearly releases of the Pen Industry. Collectors all around the World wait every year to see what they’re Graf von Faber-Castell is going to launch as a new POTY. This concept was devised by Anton Wolfgang Graf von Faber Castell back in the early 2000’s and is still running with the Knights as their latest Edition. Let’s discover the first ten Editions ever made.

The first Edition of the Pen of the Year dates back to 2003, which is now more than 18 years ago. A long enough period to make this one of the most important yearly releases of the industry and a fact that the Pen of the Year is a desired release worldwide. The Project of the Pen of the Year was  strongly desired by the former CEO of the company Anton Wolfgang Graf von Faber Castell to enhance the whole Graf von Faber Castell line and give a clear sign in the Industry about the intentions of the brand GvFC to be a Leader in the Manufacturing and Distribution of Fine Writing Instruments.

The Heritage of Faber-Castell shows a deep bond to natural materials, especially Wood. No wonder then that the first Pen of the Year where designed and conceived to celebrate some of the most stunning natural Materials on earth. That is also what makes these first ten Editions so desirable and collectable, together with the fact that they’re the oldest releases of this collection.

Not only nature has been a fil rouge of this collection but also the heritage of the Family Faber-Castell has been a huge inspiration as you will discover.

Graf von Faber Castell starts its venture in 2003 with a simple but stunning Pen of the Year “Snakewood” Edition. The origin of the wood is from Surinam and snakewood is known to be one of the heaviest and most expensive types of wood.

Back at the time these pieces were only limited in production and didn’t had an individual Limited Edition Number. The Individual Limited Edition Number was only introduced from the 250th Anniversary Jade Edition in 2011 on. The estimation of the quantity produced by Graf von Faber Castell of the “Snakewood” is at total 1500 pieces. Almost needless to say that this the most desired and hard to get Edition in the secondary Market.

In 2004 GvFC releases the “Amber” Edition, with Amber from the Baltic Region. The barrel consists of several amber rings which are hand-made by the craftsmen of the Amber Room workshop in Zarskoje Selo near Petersburg in an elaborate and unique process.   The most intriguing story connected with amber is that of the mysterious Amber Room, a masterpiece universally acclaimed the 8th wonder of the world, which however, disappeared during the second World War. Production of 2300 pieces. Once again one of the most limited and wanted pieces in the secondary market. Good luck if you’re looking for one.

2005 marks the year of the “Stingray” Edition produced in two colors: grey and green. While the grey version is extremely difficult to find very few pieces of the green edition are still available for purchase. The back skin of the stingray is characterized by an exceptional pearl pattern and fascinating features. Skillful and elaborate processing produces one of the most remarkable leathers currently in existence. Thirty additional individual working steps are required to craft the stingray barrel. Ca. 2000 pieces have been produced.

The “Mammoth Ivory” is introduced in 2006 and as the name already says produced from Mammoth Ivory taken from the arctic ocean in Siberia. Frozen in pure ice, the mammoth ivory has retained its immaculate beauty. It comes to light only during the brief Siberian summer, for example when a piece breaks from an iceberg.  For export, the ivory requires a license. Mammoth i 20 to 25 per cent heavier than ordinary ivory. 

The material needs to be slowly and carefully dried out over a period of 3 to 5 years. Only then can one cautiously cut, grind, turn and polish it. 

This takes special skills and hardly anyone is better suited to the task than Jürgen Schott. The ivory is  combined with ebony wood and in elaborate inlay work, the artistically engraved pieces of ivory are let into an ebony framework. The polished ivory disc in the end cap reveals the typical texture of mammoth ivory from the outside. Production: 2000 pieces. Sold Out.

In 2007 GvFC releases another completely sold out and very requested Edition: the “Petrified Wood”. After volcanic eruptions had buried the vegetation under hot ashes, or it had become flooded and covered in sediment, a unique metamorphosis took place in the wood that was thus encased.  In the course of a crystallization process that can take up to 360 million years, lime, phosphates, and other mineral salts penetrate the wood from the surrounding strata. The Herbert Stephan gemstone manufacture is predestined for this task. The platinized frame encases each individual stone and shows off its unmistakable brilliance to best effect.  The little plate at the end cap of the barrel is the crowning glory of this masterpiece, with an artistic gemstone cut. Production: 2000 pieces.

2008 is for the “Indian Satinwood” with only 2000 pieces made. This very elegant edition is inspired to the elegant parquet of the private salon of Ottilie von Faber-Castell. Masterfully created by Bruno Paul, normally such a parquet pattern requires a plane surface. In the POTY 2008 an unconventional technique has been employed to transfer it to a cylindrical shape. 84 rectangles have to be individually hand-made for the filigree herringbone pattern of the satinwood fountain pen. 

No two segments are identical: each can be fitted at just a single position on the barrel and matched to its neighbors to produce precisely even joins. This piece was still available up until a few weeks ago but it looks like it’s completely sold out too.

The “Horsehair” released in 2009 is a very uncommon and innovative edition that doesn’t find the appreciation in the market it deserved. The work of horse hair weaving is a very complicated one and there are very few people mastering it. The person chosen to create this work of Art is Dorit Berger which carefully selects color and uniform thickness of the horsehair. Then roughly 70 hairs are woven individually for each centimeter of fabric. 1300 pieces produced. Watch out, cause this might become a very rare piece in the future.

In 2010 GvFC releases the elegant “Caucasian Walnut” Edition. Inspired by the hand-crafted hunting rifles owned by Roland Graf von Faber-Castell. Until the late 19th century, case hardening was the sign of a high-quality gun, with its extraordinary shimmering coloration it provides. For centuries, the technique was handed down by word of mouth and was something of a secret art. The metal parts are packed in a special kind of  coal and heated to convert the surface into steel; the colours appear on cooling.  Some 20 parameters contribute to the beautiful visual effect, including the thickness of the metal, the temperature, and the rate of cooling.  With long experience a craftsman can influence the results but never predict them precisely, so no two case-hardened items are identical.

The effect is rounded off by elaborate gold damascene work. Before the case hardening, the engraver cuts a  groove in which the 24-carat gold inlay is set  into, which is then polished. There is something that makes the caucasian walnut wood even more desirable and valuable and it’s the fact that it is not enough to fell the trees: the stumps have to be dug out, because the best figured wood is in the roots that go deep into the ground. This time-consuming procedure is only used for walnut wood. 1500 pieces were made of the POTY 2010.

Probably one the most aesthetically pleasant edition and also historically important editions has been the 2011 “Russian Jade” Edition, which has also been the Edition that celebrated the incredible accomplishment of 250 years of business of Faber-Castell. This has been the first Limited Edition, individually numbered up until exactly 1761 pieces. Eight segments of jade symbolize the eight generations that have made their mark on the family company to that date. Faceted and polished, the jade is given its final and perfect form by a master craftsman of the Stephan gemstone manufactory. 

The tenth and last of the Nature’s Luxury has been one of the most exotic releases of the company. 1500 pieces made in a 1700 years old german oak wood overlayed with 24 carat gold leafs and a citrine gemstone on the top of the cap. The art of layering the gold leafs over the wood is a technique that dates back to the Egyptians and is mastered by selected few people only nowadays. The barrel is then embedded in Resin which gives if a unique pattern of reflections. This is the first Pen of the Year that also features Gold Plated Metal Trims.

Which is your personal favorite “Nature’s Luxury” Pen of the Year and why?

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