Is a gold nib absolutely necessary to have the best pen writing experience? There isn't a straight forward answer and there are a few important factors to consider. Before highlighting the differences between gold and steel nibs, it’s probably best to know the historical background of fountain pens.
The fountain pen was an improvement on the dip pen in that it contained an ink inner reservoir, resultantly keeping ink off the hands and improving writing speed. Due to early ink having corrosive properties, gold nibs were adopted as the standard in lieu of steel nibs. However, gold nibs were inherently too soft which led to several leaps in development that ultimately had major implications on humanity. Firstly, gold nibs were tipped with iridium which improved their lifespan and made them harder. Secondly, less corrosive inks and steel alloys gave gold ‘a run for its money’. As these developments ensued, the price of fountain pens became more affordable thus encouraging and sparking a raise in literacy and education.
There are two major reasons why one might prefer a gold nib to a steel nib.
One might be tempted to think that this post was written with heavy bias in favour of gold nibs. However, this is quite the contrary. Many modern steel nibs offer a very smooth writing experience which even rivals its gold nib competitors. What’s key to consider in the writing performance of a fountain pen is how well the ball under the tip flows across the paper. Corrosion can no longer be held as an argument to deter one from choosing a steel nib as technology has taken quantum leaps in steel alloys and ink formulations.
One must be careful in assuming that all stainless steel nibs will be of superior quality, as clearly this is not the case. As a general rule of thumb, one can be quite sure that if the nib bears ‘Made in Germany’ it’ll be manufactured to a high standard. Below one can find three fountain pens with high-quality, German-made nibs which Pen Heaven recommends.