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Thread: Gold plated nibs

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    Default Gold plated nibs

    Obviously on some pens, and to some people, gold plated nibs look great. There's no arguing about aesthetics. But what about other characteristics?

    Do gold plated nibs have superior resistance to corrosion?
    Are there any advantages to gold plated nibs?

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Obviously on some pens, and to some people, gold plated nibs look great. There's no arguing about aesthetics. But what about other characteristics?

    Do gold plated nibs have superior resistance to corrosion?
    Are there any advantages to gold plated nibs?
    I doubt the plating is anything more than aesthetic on modern steel nibs that don't corrode. But what do I know?

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Obviously on some pens, and to some people, gold plated nibs look great. There's no arguing about aesthetics. But what about other characteristics?

    Do gold plated nibs have superior resistance to corrosion?
    Are there any advantages to gold plated nibs?
    I doubt the plating is anything more than aesthetic on modern steel nibs that don't corrode. But what do I know?
    I’m with Fred, IMO nothing different than the color.

    Actually also the preferred look is nothing carved in stone.
    Personally I prefer the silver trim over the gold one.
    E.g. I would always choose the Pelikan 205 (silver trim) over the 200 (gold trim).




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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    From my limited experience with gold plated steel nibs, I seriously doubt that there is any advantage in performance or durability over an equivalent unplated steel nib. But I would be interested to learn otherwise. I have seen some vintage low end pens with the plating partly flaked off, but don't know if that's ever an issue with higher end plated nibs, particularly modern ones.

    As far as esthetics go, I don't necessarily find it more attractive for the color of the nib to match the color of the pocket clip or other trim, but that's a matter for individual taste. There is something that appeals to me about rhodium plated gold nibs, perhaps the counterintuitiveness of using real gold for the nib, and then covering it up with a silver-ish colored plating. But again, I haven't noticed any difference in performance between these and otherwise equivalent unplated gold nibs.
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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaputnik View Post
    From my limited experience with gold plated steel nibs, I seriously doubt that there is any advantage in performance or durability over an equivalent unplated steel nib. But I would be interested to learn otherwise. I have seen some vintage low end pens with the plating partly flaked off, but don't know if that's ever an issue with higher end plated nibs, particularly modern ones.

    As far as esthetics go, I don't necessarily find it more attractive for the color of the nib to match the color of the pocket clip or other trim, but that's a matter for individual taste. There is something that appeals to me about rhodium plated gold nibs, perhaps the counterintuitiveness of using real gold for the nib, and then covering it up with a silver-ish colored plating. But again, I haven't noticed any difference in performance between these and otherwise equivalent unplated gold nibs.
    Yes, I too would love to know if there is actual data on this. I'm thinking of old fashioned iron gall inks, for instance.

    And I agree with you on the aesthetics, I'm not fond of gold plating either. I like honesty in materials, and if it's a steel nib then I like to proudly display that.

    To me there is something perverse about rhodium plating gold nibs, and I like that too. lol Gold (real of plated) is often used in a crass way and this is somewhat of a statement regarding that. In any case, I don't believe that the rhodium plated gold is actually an improvement. I'll gladly be corrected on that though.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    I think the steel was less resistant to attack in vintage nibs. Some of the inks appear to have been quite caustic and the gold plating may have protected the nib for a time. Modern steel seems to be much better and probably the inks are too. I work almost entirely with vintage pens that have gold nibs but steel ones have turned up on cheap pens in lots. Some of them have been in a dire state, pock-marked and penetrated. Little gold plating survives. Solid gold nibs were obviously better in that environment but that's a different issue.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by eachan View Post
    Little gold plating survives.
    Now that's good information. There are different methods of plating but it's interesting to know that what they were using in past years in fact doesn't act as protection, at least not permanently. I guess it comes down to the steel, which as you say is much better in modern times.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Speaking only from vintage pens perspective, gold plating (more often very, very thin and mostly gone by the time we arrive to today) on steel nibs did little to nothing to protect the nib from decades of dried ink and who-knows-what kind of use or abuse.

    The majority of vintage steel nibs that I encounter are either corroded visually or internally (some broke off the minute I tried to write with it).

    In contrast, almost all vintage 14K gold nibs (unless damaged or cracked) are still structurally intact and strong, plus with a bit of cleaning, return to their old look and function.
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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    To me there is something perverse about rhodium plating gold nibs, and I like that too. lol Gold (real of plated) is often used in a crass way and this is somewhat of a statement regarding that. In any case, I don't believe that the rhodium plated gold is actually an improvement.
    I, for one, wouldn't want a yellow-coloured gold nib on my (or an) Aurora 88 Sigaro Blu or Pelikan M815 Metal Striped fountain pen, so I'd certainly say the rhodium-plated gold nib is an improvement aesthetically — and that ought to be enough to “justify” using it instead of yellow-toned 18K gold alloy sans plating.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by A Smug Dill View Post
    I, for one, wouldn't want a yellow-coloured gold nib on my (or an) Aurora 88 Sigaro Blu or Pelikan M815 Metal Striped fountain pen, so I'd certainly say the rhodium-plated gold nib is an improvement aesthetically — and that ought to be enough to “justify” using it instead of yellow-toned 18K gold alloy sans plating.
    I agree. Like I said above "there's no arguing about aesthetics".

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    I haven't found gold-plated steel nibs or rhodium-plated gold nibs to perform noticeably differently from their un-plated kin, but ruthenium-plating makes a difference to ink flow in my experience. All my ruthenium-plated nibs write more dryly and therefore more finely; for an EF nib, that's a good thing, especially when not even Aurora can produce a gold EF nib that writes as finely as a Japanese EF nib, as long as it's not dry to the point of ink starvation. Drawbacks are the potential for permanent discolouration and/or flaking of the coating over time, either unduly or as expected on the basis of the choice of ink(s) and pen hygiene practices of the user, and — depending on whether one's inclined to have nibs they own smoothened, customised and/or reground — any post-sale meddling with the nib would be glaringly obvious.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    Speaking only from vintage pens perspective, gold plating (more often very, very thin and mostly gone by the time we arrive to today) on steel nibs did little to nothing to protect the nib from decades of dried ink and who-knows-what kind of use or abuse.

    The majority of vintage steel nibs that I encounter are either corroded visually or internally (some broke off the minute I tried to write with it).

    In contrast, almost all vintage 14K gold nibs (unless damaged or cracked) are still structurally intact and strong, plus with a bit of cleaning, return to their old look and function.

    Not to disagree, Will, but to develop the discussion a little: it may be that reasonably-well plated nibs preserved the underlying steel for a time, while the unplated or poorly plated nibs had to be replaced. Of course by time they reach our hands, 70 or 80 years later even the better plating is gone and the underlying steel has been eaten into. With regard to gold nibs, I agree entirely. I quite often have Mabie Todd & Bard pens with original nibs that are perfect and they must have been made before 1907. I have never seen a gold nib with any evidence of corrosion.

    That was the reason for gold nibs back then; not aesthetics or some supposed added value, just the fact that gold resisted the destructive effects of some of the inks that were in use then. There's no need for gold nibs in new pens today. Both the steel and the inks are so much improved.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    A metallturgist would tell us that steel without the alloys present in stainless steel, will 'rust' (oxidise) while gold and silver will tarnish. With that, in theory at least a properly plated and undamaged, gold plated steel nib should not rust.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Over 80 years even good plating will wear. We see that on clips and levers all the time.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by eachan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    Speaking only from vintage pens perspective, gold plating (more often very, very thin and mostly gone by the time we arrive to today) on steel nibs did little to nothing to protect the nib from decades of dried ink and who-knows-what kind of use or abuse.

    The majority of vintage steel nibs that I encounter are either corroded visually or internally (some broke off the minute I tried to write with it).

    In contrast, almost all vintage 14K gold nibs (unless damaged or cracked) are still structurally intact and strong, plus with a bit of cleaning, return to their old look and function.

    Not to disagree, Will, but to develop the discussion a little: it may be that reasonably-well plated nibs preserved the underlying steel for a time, while the unplated or poorly plated nibs had to be replaced. Of course by time they reach our hands, 70 or 80 years later even the better plating is gone and the underlying steel has been eaten into. With regard to gold nibs, I agree entirely. I quite often have Mabie Todd & Bard pens with original nibs that are perfect and they must have been made before 1907. I have never seen a gold nib with any evidence of corrosion.

    That was the reason for gold nibs back then; not aesthetics or some supposed added value, just the fact that gold resisted the destructive effects of some of the inks that were in use then. There's no need for gold nibs in new pens today. Both the steel and the inks are so much improved.
    I agree that gold was found to be a necessity back then. Otherwise pen companies won't go through the elaborate process to incorporate gold into their manufacturing which increases cost.

    But I also suspect that the pen companies saw -- maybe rather quickly -- that they can sell gold-nibbed pens at a higher price tiers. And once that has become established, they incorporate the fact into their marketing. So I think there was (still is today) the aspect of perceived "added-value".

    We haven't even touched the topic of flexibility, but that's another "can of worms"
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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    . . . We haven't even touched the topic of flexibility, but that's another "can of worms"
    Surely plating doesn't play much role in flexibility. I'm willing to learn though.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    . . . We haven't even touched the topic of flexibility, but that's another "can of worms"
    Surely plating doesn't play much role in flexibility. I'm willing to learn though.
    Plating does not play any role in flexibility.

    Also there is no limitation to any specific nib material regarding flexibility.
    The only thing you can say is that historically there were way more flexible gold nibs than others, also because the majority of the better pens had gold nib (and many poor quality steel nibs are already gone).
    But there are/were also excellent vintage steel nibs (I own a wonderful vintage Degussa Steel full flex nib)

    But this is as penwash said another topic. (With countless existing threads).

    Gold nibs sells, most people do not realize the tiny material value of a gold nib (scrap gold value is usually between 10 and 15€), compared to what pen manufacturers charge in addition for a gold nibbed pen.

    Gold nibs also don’t write per se better or worse than steel nibs.
    There are good and bad gold nibs as well as good and bad steel nibs.
    Gold nibs do not write softer or more flexible or whatever.
    Technically you write in all cases with the (Iridium alloy) tipping.
    The nib geometry is most important how a nib feels, the nib material and itˋs attributes is only second.

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Couple of observations...

    By the 1930's, stainless alloys were available that offered both good corrosion resistance and decent elastic deformation. Even the somewhat flexible grades of Esterbrook nibs are rarely found with pits or the porosity that Will observes in cruder alloys of the period. 1930's Parkette steel alloy nibs seem to survive pretty well, but here is where one can often see plating (really more of a wash, with no boundary layer) mostly gone. My thought is that such a thin layer of gold, so thin that it can be rubbed off with a fingertip, was never an intact barrier to start with. It would take a lot of prep and process to make a impervious layer, and I think that the real "golden" goal was an aesthetic one. Its all about the base alloy. An early corrosion resistant alloy called Monel, found its way into some vintage nibs. Can't remember which company... may have been Sager. Anyway, I have seen them with deep surface pits. Not all stainless is as stainless, or some such maxim. I will add, that I have encountered 14k nibs which have developed internal porosity which renders them brittle. On a few occasions, I have snapped the nib on a vintage pen which I have just acquired. One was a 1920's Moore which had obviously been used for an extended time, based on the wear to body and trim. My test writing was quite gentle, BTW. Probably sat unused for decades, with the nib covered in inky goober, after a long life of service. I speculate that alloy processing, and what metal the other 10k is can make a difference in corrosion resistance, given enough time and exposure.

    As to trim, a lot of first and second tier pens had gold filled trim. Where I occasionally see gold filled trim fail, (when not worn through) is around the edges. I think that this is due to parts, cut and formed from thickly gold filled sheet, receiving a final gold plating to cover the cut edges where the base metal was exposed. I think hat this is another example of how permeable even visually intact plating can be. Same thing occurs on gold-filled hand engraved vintage pens. The engraving cuts through the gold, into the base metal. The whole is then plated over. A relatively unworn Waterman's 0552 of mine shows corrosion in the recesses, where no wear would occur, and has started to cause the gold fill to bubble around the engraving edges. Open areas of the gold filled surfaces are still pristine. I suspect that it is pretty difficult to plate an impervious layer over a coarsely cut metal surface.

    As to the last question in the OP, I think that I heard that Sheaffer's made some sort of claim about the platinum masking on their nibs facilitating better flow in the nib slit. This did not seem to stop them from concurrently marketing unmasked gold nibs, and I don't think that there is any large scale movement of collectors throwing their un-plated Sheaffer nibs away.

    Bob

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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by penwash View Post
    . . . We haven't even touched the topic of flexibility, but that's another "can of worms"
    Surely plating doesn't play much role in flexibility. I'm willing to learn though.
    Sorry for not clarifying my statement. I was not implying that any kind of plating can affect flexibility.
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    Default Re: Gold plated nibs

    The plating is not much of a help against corrosion. I've seen plenty of the old, cheap steel nibs from before WWII that had gold plating but still corroded. Sometimes you find them on really colorful or interesting pens, but cheap ones nonetheless. The underlying alloy is what will help the nib avoid corrosion. Using proper ink and cleaning also is helpful.

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