Attack Of The Clones - Part 3
by Antonios Zavaliangos, June 26, 2004, Updated October 24, 2004 and October 9, 2009
If It Looks Like A Parker Sonnet, If It Is Engraved Like A Parker Sonnet, Is It A Parker Sonnet?
It's The Real Thing - Parker Sonnet Ciselé
Well I admit it. I am a huge Parker Sonnet fan. I think I have practically all the possible colors, and with several different types of the available nibs. So, earlier last year when I heard about Parker Sonnets becoming available from China, I had to learn more about them.
These "new" Sonnets were showing up on eBay, but the sellers would quickly disappear after a few weeks. I noticed that all of these sellers had positive feedback.
A few weeks went by and another new seller appeared with Parker Sonnets. His eBay auction description said:
You are bidding a PARKER SONNET, it come from the china PARKER manufactory. It is much more cheaper & in good quality. Buyer pays all shipping cost,paypal only!!!!!!.
The shipping was US $15.00, but the closing prices were below US $10.00. I won one at US $2.51! It arrived very promptly. Less than a week, all the way from China!
The Devil Is In The Details
Now that I have it, here is the real story of the Chinese Parker Sonnet.
Parker Sonnet Chinese Clone And Authentic Parker Sonnet Hang Tags Side By Side
The similarities are striking. The pen definitely looks like a real Parker Sonnet, complete with the red hang tag. The shape, the clip, the band, and the tassie on the top all appear to be correct. The color was a bit less “satisfying” than a real Sonnet, but you could hardly tell the difference.
A Walk Around The Outside
Parker Sonnet Chinese Clone (Top) And Authentic Parker Sonnet (Bottom)
This photo compares the Chinese Sonnet (top) side by side with an authentic one.
Parker Sonnet Flighter Chinese Clone
Another interesting example of fake Sonnets was provided by Winston Kwon. Initially, I kept seeing only fakes with thick bands. This Sonnet Flighter fake has a thin cap band - similar to early Parker Sonnet models.
A Really Ragtime Band
Let us next have a look at the cap band engraving. It looks ok or does it?
Aurora Sole Aurea Minima Limited Edition ballpoint pen and sketch pencil
Oops, again! On the blue laque pen, the serifs on the letters are terrible. I never saw an "S" with horizontal serifs. The photo below is of a real Parker Sonnet cap band engraving. Notice the form of the letters.
Authentic Parker Sonnet Fougere Cap Band Detail
Let's now have a look at the fake Flighter.
Fake Parker Sonnet Flighter Cap Engraving Showing Much Better Details
The Flighter fake is a much better job than the blue laque fake. The engraving of the name SONNET uses the correct fonts, with no funny horizontal Serifs on the 'S'. This makes this one more difficult to identify.
More differences in detail show up as poor craftsmanship in the clones, such as gaps at the points where the gold colored metal parts and the cap and barrel parts join together. Bad fit and finish is a bad sign.
Getting To The Point
Parker Sonnet Chinese Clone Nib Detail
The nib on the Chinese Sonnet looks ok. Or does it? Let's take a closer look.
Parker Sonnet Chinese Clone Nib
Detail Chinese Clone Nib (Top) / Authentic Parker Nib (Bottom)
Note the deeper engraving on the authentic nib and that the diamond hallmark is different
At the top is the Chinese Sonnet nib, at the bottom is an authentic Parker Sonnet nib.
The nib engraving certainly appears identical, though it's a bit less deep. Oops! What is that cross inside the diamond on the Chinese nib, instead of the "P (Arrow) P" hallmark on the authentic nib? This hallmark is the Parker jeweler makers mark, and is used on all modern nibs by all modern manufacturers.
The only identification mark these fakes show is the diamond in the nib with a plain cross and without the correct Parker markings. This must be a rather difficult detail to duplicate because of the small size of the stamping, or an assumption that it won't be noticed. In addition, the nib plating on the fakes can be very poor and really ugly as in the picture below.
Parker Sonnet Chinese Clone Nib Detail Showing Plating Loss - Not Exactly 18 Karat
Some of the plating problems show with the nib unit removed from the section, which leads us to a careful examination of the feed.
A Look Under The Hood
How about the feed? One of the following three examples is the one from China. Look closely at each before you go on.
Parker Sonnet Feeds - Left to Right - Chinese / Parker / Parker
The Chinese feed is the one on the left. Is this an attempt at improvement in the Parker feed design? I can see fewer fins and thicker threads where the feed screws into the section. And the nib rattles when the feed is not screwed in.
Can't Fool Mother Nature
The Chinese Sonnet nib is hallmarked 18 karat gold, right? Time for the magnet test, to see if it is really what it says it is.
Magnets Don't Lie! This "Gold" Nib Has Been On An Iron Diet
Double oops! Unless the Chinese have discovered magnetic gold, this is definitely not real gold. It looks like this is a nice stainless steel nib that has been gold plated.
Please understand that if a nib passes the magnet test it does not mean that it is real. The magnet test "catches" only older clones. The newer clones have nibs made from non magnetic stainless steel.
How does this Chinese fake write? Actually, not badly. It has no tooth at all. Maybe for some this would be an improvement over the authentic Parker Sonnet nib! The Chinese Sonnet nib is supposed to be a fine, but it definitely writes broader.
Parker Sonnet Clone - China
A few days later I noticed that the pen would not write at all. It had dried out. Looking inside the cap, it appears there is no inner cap at all. This is either a drastic design change, possibly to correct a problem for the real Parker Sonnet, or a glaring omission. Of the many Sonnets I have, none of mine suffers from drying out, despite some negative reports on the pen boards.
Initially, I thought this was not a bad pen for fifteen bucks. It's definitely a very advanced imitation of the real Parker Sonnet. For those of you who do not like the real Parker Sonnet, you may find these clones appealing for their very low price.
Parker Sonnet Clone Nib Detail Showing Plating Loss On An 18 Karat Marked Nib
Incidentally, there is a new twist to this story. A question was posed on the Zoss pen list asking whether a nib that was not marked 18K was fake. The writer noticed that this unmarked nib was not attracted by a magnet. Of course, lack of the 18K mark on a real Parker Sonnet nib would mean the nib was plated. There are lower end real Parker Sonnets fitted with gold plated stainless steel nibs. I checked some of my own real Sonnets with original plated nibs and found that some of them are magnetic and some are not! This actually should not be a surprise because stainless steel can be magnetic or not depending on the amount of deformation during the rolling of the metal sheet the nibs are stamped from.
If the source of the Chinese Sonnet fakes keeps improving the product as they have with the cap band stampings, they will soon produce stainless nibs marked 18K that will pass the magnet test. This will leave only the incorrect "cross" within the diamond hallmark on the nib, instead of the correct P/P or P/W (Parker / Waterman) hallmark, as the last telltale sign of mischief. If they fix this, then only chemical or destructive analysis will tell us whether the nib is a fake or not, and will mean these pens will be very difficult to tell apart from the real thing. This would be very bad for the uninformed consumer. My guess is that day is soon coming.
Be careful what you bid for on eBay from now on. It may actually be a very clever fake.
This article is based on a study by Antonios Zavaliangos originally posted on Pentrace.net on March 17, 2004. I thought the content was especially important, given the number of clones and fakes that are appearing. Antonios has done a fine study of how to detect fakery and his article is a service to the pen collecting community. Antonios made a great update showing a much better Sonnet Flighter fake that further addresses the need to be cautious about these pens and verify their authenticity. Jim Mamoulides
Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Antonios Zavaliangos. Article and photographs copyright © 2004 Antonios Zavaliangos. All rights reserved by the author.
The photo of the Parker Sonnet Ciselé is by Jim Mamoulides / © 2004 PenHero.com. PenHero.com Bibliography