Rich In History & Materials
Since its inception in 2003, Graf von Faber-Castell’s Pen of the Year has been a much-anticipated annual release of heirloom-worthy writing instruments. Each edition is a celebration of fine craftsmanship, traditional techniques and extraordinary beauty. The first ten Pens of the Year were a homage to the Earth’s most rare and beautiful materials as part of the Nature’s Luxury series; while since 2014 the Pillars of History series has been inspired by pivotal moments and architecture of the past. Here are some of the remarkable highlights from these precious collections, as well as a look at this year’s edition themed after the Japanese Samurai.
Petrified Wood (Nature’s Luxury, 2007)
Petrified wood is the name of stone fossils that are formed out of dead vegetation—for example, when a tree is covered by volcanic ash. The mineralisation process takes millions of years, and the result preserves the organic structure of wood but in a material that can be polished to a gemstone finish. 2007’s Pen of the Year was crafted out of select, high-quality pieces of petrified wood sourced from Brazil and carefully shaped with jeweller’s cutting techniques. The final instruments had hues that ranged from light brown to anthracite grey to a deep black, all with fascinating grain textures.
Horsehair (Nature’s Luxury, 2009)
Horsehair has long been a useful material, having been various applied to such crafts as upholstery and furniture, brushes, and in violin bows. Smooth and glossy, yet durable, carefully selected horsehair has much potential as a luxurious textile. For 2009, Graf von Faber-Castell decided on a weave pattern, which proved to be a challenge to make. Only a single German master weaver eventually proved up to the tricky task of manipulating the short and stiff horsehair fibres, and each hair was meticulously screened for uniform thickness. Colours were also carefully considered, and the result is a hypnotic, nuanced interplay of light and dark.
Jade (Nature’s Luxury, 2011)
Jade is a classic for good reason, its beauty long immortalised by millennia of traditional Chinese craftsmanship. This auspicious material was selected by Graf von Faber-Castell in 2011 to mark its 250th anniversary, with the Pen of the Year’s design having eight segments—one each for the generations of the family that have guided the company ever since. The material used was a delicately mottled Russian jade, and it took an experienced jeweller to cut and polish each slice in a way that best brings out its individual lustre.
Catherine Palace, St Petersburg (Pillars of History, 2014)
The Catherine Palace in St Petersburg, which dates back to the early 18th century, is a fine showcase of complex, gold-gilded Baroque architecture. Amongst its impressively decorated interior are the Agate Rooms, a series of bathrooms that, at Catherine the Great’s instruction, were remodelled in the classical style of ancient Rome. They are so named for the extensive use of the mineral agate, also known as jasper, in their lavish decoration. The 2014 Pen of the Year includes six panels of jasper on the barrel, with a design that follows the opulent style of a bygone era of royalty and splendour.
Imperium Romanum (Pillars of History, 2018)
There are few histories as rich as that of the ancient Rome. The Pen of the Year for 2018 is spoiled for choice and borrows numerous motifs from one of mankind’s most significant civilisations. White marble of classical statuary intersects with platinum rings, while the cap is decorated with an engraving of the iconic Colosseum, and a depiction of a coin from 44BC that bears the likeness of Julius Caesar—all captured in the orderly, regal lines that are a homage to a society based on strength and law. A highly limited PVD-coated titanium ‘Black Edition’ was the darkened capstone to the collection.
Samurai (Pillars of History, 2019)
The myths and history of the Japanese Samurai has long held the world’s fascination—not just for the consummate martial skills of these warriors of old, but also for their unbreakable spirit, deep-seated philosophies, and traditions of skilled craftsmanship.
The 2019 Pen of the Year (rollerball, limited to 120, RM18,000 and fountain pen, limited to 400, RM20,000) expresses this fascination through a dark magnolia wood barrel, engraved with Japanese characters that are varnished in 24-carat gold. The phrase is a quote from the warrior-philosopher Miyamoto Musashi: ‘Today I win against myself of yesterday.’ The forged grip is styled after the leather wraps of the samurai sword, while the end cap bears the symbol of the tsuba or handguard.
The Black Edition (rollerball, limited to 100, RM25,000 and fountain pen, limited to 330, RM28,000) swaps ruthenium coating for PVD, while the barrel is black-painted metal reminiscent of samurai armour and embellished with 24-carat gold. On the cap is another quote from Miyamoto Musashi: ‘Cultivate both—your spirit and wisdom.’
If you are keen to explore the world of finely-crafted writing instruments, submit your details below to book a personal appointment with a representative of Graf von Faber-Castell.