Some fountain pens are just fountain pens whilst others are simply works of art. That’s why today we are going to be looking at 4 masterpieces launched between 2014 and 2017. Created by Graf von Faber-Castell as part of the legendary “Pen of the Year” line and divided into “Nature’s Luxury” a category inspired by the pure beauty of natural materials and “Pillars of History”, that draws inspiration from the historic works of major designers and personalities, these pens not only stand out for their impressive design but are also valuable pieces to invest in. Since we have already covered “Nature’s Luxury” editions in one of our recent articles, let’s move on to the other category.
Pen of the Year 2014 – Catherine Palace St. Petersburg
As the name suggests, the first “Pillars of History” edition is inspired by one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Europe, the Catherine Palace. Located near St. Petersburg, it was originally built as a summer palace for Catherine I in 1718. Then, it became the favourite residence of Catherine the Great, one of the most remarkable figures of Russia and the country’s longest-ruling female leader. The palace’s magnificent interiors were significantly redesigned under Catherine the Great in a way to express the spirit of her era as well as her powerful empire.
Paying homage to the Agate Rooms, the Pen of the Year is decorated with three large red-brown jasper stones embedded into the platinum plated barrel, reminiscent of the polished jasper walls of the rooms, a very symbolic detail. To harmoniously match the barrel, the cap is adorned with a grey shimmering Russian quartz with facet finish. The already famous bicolour nib made of 18k gold comes to equip each fountain pen, adding a final touch of elegance.
In addition to the platinum-plated version, Graf von Faber-Castell created a Special Edition plated with 24k gold. This model features six jasper stones framed by finely decorated rosettes in 24k gold. Unlike the platinum version, there is one yellow Russian quartz stone adorning the cap’s finial.
Not only the pens are impressive but also the box they come in. Limited to 1000 numbered pieces worldwide, the platinum plated fountain pen is still available at some retailers. As for the 24k gold plated model, it was limited to only 150 pieces, therefore it is quite hard to find.
Pen of the Year 2015 – Sanssouci Potsdam
Those who visited the Sanssouci Palace are already acquainted with the unparalleled beauty of those opulent interiors – magnificent ballrooms, impressive galleries, a baroque palace theatre. Built at the request of Frederick the Great, king of Prussia at the time, the palace was designed as a place for relaxation rather than a seat of power.
Inspired by the fascinating architecture of the building, this edition was masterfully crafted by the Herbert Stephan gemstone manufactory. The masters had a quite difficult task but they managed to accomplish it impressively. They took each pen and decorated it with four green Silesian serpentines and a Russian smoky quartz located on the cap’s finial – all ground and polished by hand. The 24k gold plated version is adorned with the same green Silesian serpentines, but instead of the Russian smoky quartz, the cap’s finial is embellished with a rare chrysoprase.
The platinum-plated fountain pen was limited to 1000 numbered pieces while the gold plated version to 150.
Pen of the Year 2016 – Schloss Schönbrunn Vienna
An edition that pays homage to the deep love between Maria Theresa and Francis Stephan through their shared passion for lacquer art. Drawing inspiration from the black lacquer panels of the Vieux-Laque Room, the pen is absolutely fascinating in terms of design. To make this project possible, Graf von Faber-Castell joined forces with the conservator of the Vieux-Laque Room Silvia Miklin and the Japanese artist Tomizo Saratani who specialises in the Maki-e technique. They worked together developing a motif that is divided into three parts, yet comes together to create a whole.
Then, each of the three plates are painted in black, polished and burnt several times by hand. The motif is drawn on the lacquer and, while it’s still wet, the Maki-e master sprinkles 24k gold powder in different tints until the illustration is easily perceived underneath the protective lacquer layers. As for the platinum-plated version, hand-ground plates made from deep black onyx are embedded in platinum-plated frames accompanied by individually grained flamed maple.
Pen of the Year 2017 – Vikings
Vikings are often associated with their famous longboats. That’s why, the Pen of the Year is mainly inspired by the revolutionary construction of the Nordic vessels. The first detail we notice at this edition is the platinum-plated barrel reminiscent of the elegant curves of the Vikings’ boats. To give the pen some character, slivers of curly birch have been embedded along the barrel. The curly birch wasn’t chosen by accident, as it is one of the characteristic trees of the Nordic world. Also, in mythology the birch counts as a protector and was specially revered by the Vikings who were faced with so many dangers. The cap’s finial is crowned with a carnelian, a famous gemstone among women of the time and add some colour to the rather neutral look of the pen.
There is another version available, with PVD coated barrel and cap. Instead of the brown slivers of curly birch, this one is decorated with matt-grey smoked oak – the type of wood used for building the Viking ships. Instead of the orange carnelian, the cap’s finial is adorned with a smoky quartz to complement the overall dark grey look of the pen.
The platinum-plated version was limited to 500 pieces while the PVD coated one to 230 pieces.
If you were to buy one of the masterpieces on this list, which one would you choose and why?