Graf von Faber-Castell Pens of the Year - Part 2 of 2

Firstly, please excuse the long delay in publishing the final instalment of this feature – it’s been long overdue. In part 1, we looked at the Pens of the Year covering 2003-2007 – now we’ll be focussing on 2008 – 2012.

What about Pen of the Year 2013?

Graf von Faber-Castell had decided to limit the PotY story to 10 whilst they redevelop the entire concept. We’re reliably informed that there will be a Pen of the Year 2014. We’ll be sure to keep you posted, but in the meantime let’s begin with the 2008 model.

2008 Pen of the Year – Indian Satinwood

The wooden theme has been a mainstay of the Pen of the Year collection, and the 2008 model was no exception. Crafted from an extremely expensive East Indies satinwood; it’s also known as lemonwood owing to its fragrant scent. The inspiration for this pen’s design came from Countess Ottilie’s private drawing-room in Faber-Castell castle which is panelled in East Indies Satinwood (and its scent gave it its colloquial name ‘the lemonroom’.

The herringbone pattern of the pen’s barrel is modelled on the inlay of the finest furniture in the drawing-room; most notably the Countess’s writing desk. 84 pieces of hand-made satinwood rectangles make up this pattern. The cap is crowned by a chessboard-faceted citrine gemstone, platinum fittings and an 18 carat gold nib.

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2009 Pen of the Year – Horsetail Hair

2009’s offering caused some controversy to the extent that some retailers refused to stock it on ethical grounds. Why? The barrel is completely woven from horsetail hair. It was chosen on account of its natural beauty and its ability to withstand the elements. As the 1800s approached, horsehair became popular with the wealthy for chair coverings. Initially woven by hand (quite a difficult task given horsehair’s natural properties and its difficulty to process), it wasn't until the late 19th century that the first mechanical loom was made in order to speed up the process.

As you might expect, the filigree pattern for each 2009 Pen of the Year was done completely by hand. Not only that, it was a painstaking process to carefully select the hair for colour and uniform thickness, then approximately 70 hairs are individually woven for each centimetre of fabric. This is what gives this pen such appeal; the contrasting texture, lightness and darkness of each hair makes each model so unique.

Moving on to the pen itself, the nib is an 18-carat bi-colour gold (hand-run in, of course), the cap platinum-plated and it’s accompanied by a certificated bearing Dorit Berger’s signature; testimony to the quality and authenticity of the horsehair used. Feeling flush? On request, you can have a pen made using the tail hair from your own horse.

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2010 Pen of the Year – Caucasian Walnut

In 1867, the company’s founder Baron Lothar von Faber purchased the Durrenhembach hunting lodge for his son Willhelm, a passionate huntsman. Lothar’s great-grandson Count Roland von Faber-Castell also shared that passion and also deeply cared about the environment. The woods, forests and the conservation of wildlife were extremely close to his heart – an attitude which still runs in the family to this day. The aesthetics of some extremely ornate and hand-crafted hunting rifles owned by Count Roland inspired the Pen of the Year 2010.

The pen particularly stands out due to the case-hardened, metal diamond-shaped parts embedded in the barrel. Up until the late 1800s, case hardening was the insignia of an extremely high-quality weapon. For hundreds of years this technique was handed down by word of mouth and was somewhat regarded as a dark art. The metal parts are packed in carbonised leather (often with hooves, salt and urine!), heated until the surface converts to steel. This is what really gives the metal its shimmering effect. As for the wood, the precious Caucasian walnut wood is stored for many years and is extremely durable but it does not warp or splinter making it ideal for the barrel of a gun, or in this case, for a luxury writing instrument.

In addition to the 18 carat gold ‘run in’ nib, the exquisite gift box and the certificate of authenticity, its crowning jewel is in the cap; where you will find a case-hardened metal disc to protect the knob of the plunger mechanism. The case’s lid is made of a beautiful walnut veneer.

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2011 Pen of the Year - Jade

Jade - the protective talisman, amulet of prosperity and the attractor of love. Early civilisations had used jade for utilitarian purposes (such as axe heads and chisels) and ceremonial events (masks etc). More recently, Fabergé, a name synonymous with luxury jewellery had produced a range of desk utensils from jade and jewellers of the Art Deco period used it extensively in their creations. A fitting choice, then, perhaps for Faber-Castell's 250th Anniversary. Eight segments of jade represent the eight generations of family who've made their mark on the company to date. This collection was limited to 1761 pieces, the year the illustrious company was founded.

Jade is remarkably tough and is incredibly difficult to work with - these challenging properties have encouraged master craftsmen to achieve supreme feats. The 2011 Pen of the Year uses an emerald-coloured nephrite found in Siberia, Russia (although its exact location remains a closely-guarded secret) and possesses some extremely vivid shades of green. Piece-by-piece, an ornament is chiselled from the stone. Platinum plates surround and grip each individual piece of the jade perfectly, turning it into an exquisite piece of jewellery. The most dazzling part of the pen is the faceted jadestone inside the cap.

Each individually numbered pen comes in an exclusive wooden case. The green lid is polished repeatedly to a high gloss to ensure it perfectly reflects the colour of the jade. The accompanying certificate bears the personal signature of Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell attesting to the exclusivity and authenticity of this near-perfect writing instrument. The 18-carat bi-colour gold nib is available in fine, medium and broad nib widths.

[gdl_gallery title=" 2011-poty-jade" width="170" height="160" ]

2012 Pen of the Year –Wetland Oak

For Graf von Faber-Castell’s final Pen of the Year, you might have expected a bit of an anti-climax given all of its previous offerings. Wrong. The 2012 PotY was quite possibly the most extravagant and luxurious in the entire collection. Crafted from ancient wetland oak, these extraordinary pieces of wood have been buried for up to 8,000 years in German bogs and marshes.

The peat bogs prevent the wood from decaying as a result of the external acidic and anaerobic conditions, often making it more useful than dendrochronology (the process of measuring a tree’s age by the number of rings present). The incredibly deep structure of ancient wetland oak and its natural beauty developed over thousands of years combined with the gold leaf creates a supernatural sheen.

Moulding the 24-carat gold leaf to the graining of the oak barrel is a painstaking task. The leaves must be carefully applied by hand using an extremely fine squirrel-hair brush. A technique dating back to the Egyptians is used and is only mastered by a select few. The man responsible for this was Ernst D. Feldmann; a gilder and church painter who had studied Venetian gilding techniques which resulted in him winning the Bavarian State Design Award. Once each layer of the gold leaf has been meticulously applied to the oak it is embedded in resin, revealing a unique pattern of reflections which only the purest gold is capable of displaying.

Each individually-numbered pen is packaged in an exclusive deep black wooden case along with a certificate of authenticity personally signed by Ernst D. Feldmann. The collection was limited to 1500 units. The 18-carat gold nib is run-in by hand (as is the case with all the previous models) and is available in fine, medium and broad.

[gdl_gallery title=" poty-2012-wetland" width="170" height="160" ]

And there we have it! Stay tuned in 2014 when GvFC announce what's in store for its next pen of the year.