Limited Edition 1998
by Jim Mamoulides, November 15, 2003
Retro With A Modern Twist
Aurora, Italy's largest pen maker, was founded in Turin in 1919, manufacturing very high quality hard rubber and overlay eye dropper, safety, and lever fill pens. Aurora began making celluloid plastic pens in 1925 and these pens, called the "Duplex", bore strong resemblance to the market leading Parker Duofold, having a black cap top and end cap and a ball-end washer clip. Many pen manufacturers made copies of the Parker Duofold in the 1920s, so this follow-the-leader trend was nothing new. Aurora Duplex pens were lever fillers, but really set themselves apart with their very a distinctive and ornate clip, that gracefully arches upward from the ball-end to the wide washer, tapering to a broad "V" shape at the cap top.
Aurora Primavera Limited Edition Fountain Pen 1998
The 1990s was a decade where many pen makers produced models that looked back to their roots, reviving vintage design elements or entire pen lines. Aurora participated in this "retro" trend and in 1992 introduced the Optima line, pens that strongly recall the Duplex of the 1920s and 1930s, in a more compact and streamlined design.
The Optima, borrows many features from the Duplex. It is a celluloid plastic pen with a distinctive arched washer clip, black cap top, and end cap. It is thoroughly modern in operation, built with a piston filler, using the end cap as the turning knob. The cap is adorned with a very wide gold plated band engraved with a Greek key design that is flanked by black lacquer stripes. There is a large ink view window at the top of the barrel next to the section. Early models were fitted with a large 14 karat gold nib with the Aurora name and Italy in an oval, a similar design to the nib on the Duplex. Aurora later changed the design to a more ornate scrollwork.
Optimas came in fountain pen, capped rollerball, twist action ballpoint, and twist action pencil versions. The first Optimas were offered in hand turned cobalt blue, smoke gray, amber brown, and emerald green "Auroloide", Aurora's name for its deeply marbled celluloid. An 18 karat solid gold fine barleycorn overlay pen was also available. Solid resin models in black, green and bordeaux and sterling silver overlay versions followed in later years production.
Celebration Of Spring
"Primavera" is Italian for spring, and the pen has the bright green color of the early first growth after the last frost. The Aurora Primavera Limited Edition Collection is the third in a series of bright colored marbled celluloid Optima Limiteds. The barrel and cap are hand turned and highly polished. The barrel is then imprinted with the Aurora name, a nod toward its vintage roots. The gold-plated clip is engraved with two swallows in flight on the crown, a logo that appears throughout the handsome green and black packaging with the pen. The cap has a the wide gold plated engraved Optima band with "AURORA" centered under the clip, flanked by a Greek key design accented by two black lacquer stripes.
Aurora Primavera Limited Edition
The Primavera fountain pen, as all Optimas, is a very smooth piston filler which has an interesting "hidden reservoir" feature. This feature allows an extra page of writing when the pen runs out. The manual says, "When the pen stops writing, turn the end anticlockwise as far as it will go and the pen will write another page. You can leave the end turned to remind you to fill the pen with Aurora ink." This action likely uses air pressure from the piston to press any ink left in the pen into the feed, allowing for about a page of additional writing. It's a neat feature, and shows how well sealed the piston system is.
The Primavera is fitted with a highly decorated solid 18 karat gold nib in extra-fine, fine, medium, broad, and italic point sizes.
The Primavera edition came in four writing modes and two packaged same numbered sets:
Fountain Pen, 7,500 numbered pieces - US $495.00
Capped Rollerball Pen, 4,500 numbered pieces - US $350.00
Twist Action Ballpoint Pen, 7,500 numbered pieces - US $195.00
Twist Action Pencil, 3,500 numbered pieces - US $195.00
Matched 2-Piece Fountain Pen / Ballpoint Pen Set - US $690.00
Matched Quartet Of All Four, 1,919 Sets - US $1,235.00
The quartet set was produced in only 1919 same numbered sets to commemorate Aurora's anniversary in 1919. All Optimas carry the Aurora lifetime warranty.
Optima Limited Edition Pens
The Optima is a popular line and the design served as a starting point for many limited edition pens. At the beginning, in 1992, Aurora released the Columbus 500th Anniversary Limited Edition, a series of 1,492 numbered pieces in fountain pen, twist action ballpoint, and twist action pencil versions. Each is a gold plated overlay with special guilloche engraving and is marked "1492 - 1992" on the cap band. The fountain pen is has an 18 karat gold nib, unlike the regular Optima models.
Aurora followed this edition in 1993 with the sterling silver overlay Carlo Goldoni Limited Edition, an homage to the Venetian playwright who had great influence on Italian comedy. The cap band is engraved "1707-1793", his birth and death, and also with masks from Italian comedic theater. The series was released in 1,793 numbered pieces in fountain pen with 18 karat gold nib, twist action ballpoint, and twist action pencil versions.
In 1994 Aurora released a bright red celluloid Optima as its 75th Anniversary Limited Edition, a series of 7,500 numbered pieces in fountain pen, twist action ballpoint, and twist action pencil versions. The anniversary pen's clip crown is specially engraved with the 75th anniversary logo and the cap band has "AURORA" engraved centered under the clip. The fountain pen is fitted with an ornate 18 karat gold nib. This style sets the design for the next three limited edition Optima based pens.
The 1996 Aurora Sole Limited Edition is the next in the celluloid series, with all the appointments of the 75th Anniversary Limited Edition, including a new special design clip crown honoring the sun, the inspiration of the pen's vivid yellow celluloid. The Sole comes in 7,500 numbered pieces in fountain pen, twist action ballpoint, and twist action pencil versions.
Aurora Primavera Limited Edition Cap And Nib Detail - Note Swallows On Clip Crown Engraving
The green Primavera Limited Edition follows in 1998, and the blue Mare Limited Edition in 2000. Each has a unique clip crown engraving, and is a numbered piece offering in fountain pen, capped rollerball, twist action ballpoint, and twist action pencil. Aurora offered both pens in special fountain pen and ballpoint sets and four piece quartets with the same series number. Both numbered editions were offered as 7,500 fountain pens, 4,500 capped rollerball pens, 7,500 twist action ballpoint pens, and 3,500 twist action mechanical pencils.
The Aurora Afrika Limited Edition, released in 2002, departs from the previous four Optima celluloid Limited Editions with a unique design approach. The pen is hand turned from a black and brown swirled resin. The cap has a crown that mounts a semi-precious Agate stone and the cap band is a high relief casting with "AURORA" above "AFRIKA" and accented with african tribal shields. The same 18 karat ornate gold nib is mounted. graces the majestic fountain pen. The Afrika numbered edition was offered as 7,500 fountain pens, 5,500 capped rollerball pens, 7,500 twist action ballpoint pens, 2,500 twist action mechanical pencils, and 999 wide lead sketch pens.
The mid-size Primavera, like all Optimas, runs counter to the current trend toward extra large sized pens. This is actually a pleasant surprise. Though a bit shorter than king size pens like the Parker Duofold Centennial, the Primavera is still a stout pen that is surprisingly lighter in weight, due to its all-plastic construction. It feels substantial and is very well made, however. It's about 5 inches long when capped, and posts very deeply and securely. Some may find the uncapped length a tad short, but the extra length posted makes it right for my hand. The celluloid is very bright, shiny, and full of life, a good representation of the "Spring" theme. This is a pretty pen.
Aurora piston fillers work very smoothly and efficiently, a very similar experience to Pelikan pens. The ink view window is very large and clear and gives a great view of the remaining ink, so as to avoid run outs. The clip is very elegant, with the swallow engraving, and works very well, tightly gripping the pen in place.
Aurora Primavera Limited Edition Cap And Nib Detail
The nib is a deep, rich yellow gold that has a vintage color, and the scroll work is nice. The lack of palladium masking, which is a trend lately, works well on this pen, a nod toward a 1920s / early 1930s look carried by the overall design. The nib is quite firm, very smooth, and writes a nice, even line. This is a good everyday writer, but not an expressive one. There is some noticeable nib noise on paper, which others have noted about Optimas.
The overall design is a successful combination of vintage look and feel updated with modern appointments and a first rate filling system. An excellent pen in all aspects. Optimas offer a broad range of color and materials, from black resin to brilliant celluloid, silver and gold. A flexible nib option would add depth to the vintage feel that it lacks, and the nib is probably its only shortcoming, and a small one, in my opinion.
The Primavera is a bright, upbeat, pretty pen. A pen that is worthy to its name.