Fountain Pen Review: Stipula La 91 Black 0.9 Italic
1) First impressions
I chose to receive this pen as an university degree gift of the last year for the following reasons: it's Italian and like all high-quality Italian things with time it acquires value, it's a technologic pen with its retractable rotary mechanism, it's small and it's standing perfectly fine to leave on the desktop, it's elegant and it's something that lasts over time being totally metal. I saw it for the first time at Giardino Italiano site where later it was bought at and then I read a review about it on FPN. As always, Giardino Italiano has been reliable in the shipment and the package contained a Visconti Opera Club (of which I will write the review soon), several ink cartridges and it should also contain an inkwell with aluminum cap, kind gift of the site, which it was sent later with other inkwells I purchased. The pen arrived with the classic red box with hidden drawer which contained the instruction booklet / maintenance / warranty and 2 Stipula Blue della Robbia cartridges.
2) Aesthetics and finishing
The pen is pretty solid and compact because of it is almost completely of metal. The body of the pen that is also the grip is covered in shiny plastic, the rest is just metal chrome. It's a bitonal black / chrome, perfect in detail and finishes. Of course all these shiny surfaces suffer of the hand sebo. In photo the black seemed dull, but in this way it's much more elegant and I am very satisfied.
3) Design, size and weight
The pen is completely metal and this obviously affects the weight that despite its small size is gr.59. The grip diameter is 13 mm. The whole design of this pen is special and unique, hard to describe but this design allows the pen to be stably positioned vertically when not in use, while maintaining a sleek line and securing the nib with a patented retractable mechanism system. When you use the pen the flat base shows the visible symbol of Stipula nib while around the nib the metal is engraved with "La 91" which is also the length in mm of the pen when it is closed while when it is open it measures 112 mm. Although the balance of the pen is perfect, its weight is felt and then relegates the pen for sporadic use only i.e. for signing documents or for short letters. In any case, photos do not make justice to this jewel.
4) Nib design and performance
The nib is a rhodiated 14kt solid gold with Italic 0.9 line, its length is 21 mm and the wingspan is 8 mm. Since the first use with the FPN Bexley I always liked the italic stub nibs so that if the pen is of high quality I always try to get it. I have another Stipula with italic nib but it is 1.1 and I still have to write the review. The stroke is soft and smooth and the nib is of the hard type. It keeps very well the ink that hardly dryies even though the flow is not particularly abundant but it is such to make a good shadow effect with the Stipula Terra di Siena ink. Unfortunately due to its small size, the feed plastic system can not be unscrewed but can only be jointed, which I haven't checked for obvious reasons. The line is great with the Stipula Terra di Siena ink on all types of paper tested.
5) Filling System
The small size and the bayonet mechanism have constrained designers for use of short cartridges exclusively, and when the pen is closed, they arrive almost at the base and then the pen is incompatible even with the smaller converter. I usually prefer the piston filling system but considering that the pen is meant to be used occasionally and looking at its beautiful design, I am fully satisfied with this system that, unlike other pens, let the ink dry very slowly allowing the use of a mounted cartridge even after several months of time, preceded by a quick nib immersion in distilled water to dissolve just the dryed ink on the tip. Only drawback: it is very difficult to clean.
6) Cost / Value
Apart from the fact that the pen has been selected by me as an university degree gift from my aunt, I recommend strongly the purchase because it is out of production and then entered the firmament of rare pens. On September 4th 2007 the pen was paid EUR 215.00 from Giardino Italiano, official Stipula distributor and retailer. The pen was obviously new and perfectly packaged in its original box with lifetime warranty. I am always satisfied with my purchases at Giardino Italiano, and about the excellent assistance of Susanna and Marcello.
7) Overall opinion and conclusions
It is strange that a pen so beautiful and special has been publicized not so much. I am very happy because it actually respects the requirements for which it was designed: to catch the eyes of those people around us, to always be near hand, and to write well without too many thoughts at the ink. It's a sin only for the cleaning difficulty but it's an acceptable problem due to its design. This pen will remain one of the best and most unique pens in my collection, even if in future there will be more rare and expensive pens.
From what I read on Giardino Italiano and FPN it seems that in 2009 Stipula will release a new version of the pen, not only a simple nib change from titanium to gold as it happened in the past. At this point I am very curious, who knows if I will have the opportunity to have one of them in the future, to place side by side to this version.