PenInHand: March, 2010

The Allure Of Sterling Silver: Classic Pens ZJ2 Vannerie Prototype

by Jim Mamoulides, March 27, 2010

Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne Vannerie prototype fountain pen open

Classic Pens launched the ZJ1 Mozaique in 2007 as the initial Zoë Jewelry Collection model. This was a super exclusive limited edition of only fifty pens precious metal construction pens, with twenty-five in sterling silver, fifteen in vermeil (23 karat gold plated sterling silver) and ten in 18 karat solid gold. Classic Pens developed the cigar shaped "Legend" and straight shape "Mythos" about five years ago, under the watchful eye of Andy Lambrou. His objective was to create two standard shapes for future Classic Pens models that would work in acrylic, precious metal, sterling silver overlay and filigree and Maki-E applications.

Andy Lambrou worked closely with Paul Rossi to develop in acrylic the standards for the ZJ1, a Legend model, and ZJ2, a Mythos model. These base shapes were then sent to Murelli for Jean Pierre to translate into metal for the ZJ Zoë pens. Paul Rossi has proven instrumental in realizing in silver and acrylic each of Andy Lambrou's ideas for the standard elements of these pens.

Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne Vannerie prototype cap and nib detail

Each pen was the work of three master craftsmen. Jean Pierre Mezan made the cap, barrel and section of the pens in France, Marc Murelli hand engraved each cap, barrel and section piece, using a 1927 vintage hand engraver from the Murelli museum, in France, and Paul Rossi handcrafted each of the clips in the USA. The ZJ1 Mozaique was unusual in that each major element of the pen was engraved, including the two cap pieces, the two barrel pieces and the section. Completing the pen is was an oversize 18 karat gold nib with an ebonite feed offered in custom sizes including extra fine, fine, medium, broad, oblique and italic. The ZJ1 Mozaique was truly a top of the line hand crafted pen with a bespoke writing experience.

Jean Pierre Mezan worked with solid silver rods, specially manufactured in Germany for the ZJ pens. The scrap was sent back to Germany for purifying, more silver was added, and then new rods were made for the next batch of pens. Jean Pierre Mezan not only made every pen part by hand, he also matched, for each ZJ pen, the various parts together to make the complete pen, something Andy Lambrou believes no other pen maker does today. Because metal is stronger than plastic, the section and barrel walls as well as the barrel threads can be finer. Andy Lambrou wanted master craftsman Jean Pierre Mezan to try and have zero tolerance for the step between the barrel and section. This was achieved, as you can see a continuous line from the barrel through the section.

Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne Vannerie prototype (right) CP8 Murelli Vannerie (left) fountain pens, both closed

With the success of the ZJ1 Mozaique, Classic Pens set out in 2009 to create a second edition, the ZJ2. The design process is lengthy and laborious, as the new pen would be a different shape and potentially offer an even larger nib size than the ZJ1. Classic Pens arrived at the handsome oversize cylindrical shape shown with this prototype model and gave the cap top and barrel end cap a slight taper. This design allows the engraving to run the entire length of the pen to the edges, as the ends are flat, where the more cigar shaped ZJ1 Mozaique requires that the engraving stop before the rounded ends of the cap and barrel. This is very eye catching, as the design literally flows from end to end, as if running underneath the cap band, the clip washer and the barrel trim ring.

Prototype pens such as this are usually done first inexpensively in brass, so that the engraving pattern can be seen on a live production piece. Sometimes the prototypes will be plated in silver or gold to give a visual representation of the finished product. Final prototypes may be made from sterling silver and include the complete laser engravings on the cap band and the hallmarks, as this one shows. From initial design discussion to final pre-production approval prototype models can take months, as each step in the process will involve corrections and changes in order to reach the final production design.

Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne Vannerie prototype fountain pen open

The deep guilloche engraving on this ZJ2 prototype is the same Vannerie, or French Basketweave, design used on the Classic Pens CP8 Murelli pens. It is a deeply cut repeating pattern that reminds of the ribbon-like cross patterns seen in handmade baskets.

I first saw this prototype pen at the 2009 Raleigh Pen Show. It was among several early and final prototypes that Andy Lambrou was showing to gauge acceptance of the final design by the pen collecting public. One of the designs was a very large and shiny hobnail design that literally flashed in the hand. A very impressive, statement making pen. Of the designs he showed, I personally liked this Vannerie pattern, as it was more subdued and gave the pen a softer, whiter look.

Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne Vannerie prototype cap engraving and nib detail

Compared to the CP8 Murelli Vannerie, a very large and hefty pen in its own right, the ZJ2 Parisienne prototype is a really extra large pen. It is 5 3/4 inches long with the cap on and a really long 7 3/8 inches long with the cap posted on the end of the barrel. It weighs a colossal 2.8 ounces, more than double the weight of a typical large pen on the market today.

The ZJ2 Parisienne prototype fountain pen is a cartridge / converter pen and uses international type cartridges. Each pen is fitted with a very large 18 karat solid gold, two-tone nibs with the Classic Pen logo.

Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne Vannerie prototype fountain pen open showing section and converter

The nib on the ZJ2 Parisienne is slightly soft and springy and writes very smoothly. Classic Pens has done a great job in selecting nibs for their new in-house lines, and this is no exception. The writing quality is excellent.

The Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne prototype is really too big to post, although it will post securely. I personally do not even consider it, not only because I don't want to accidentally scuff the engraving, but because it would be unwieldy to write with. It's plenty big without the cap jammed onto the end of the barrel.

I gave Andy Lambrou my opinion on this prototype. I think this should be the final production design as it is truly beautiful and has a timeless quality to it that would make it an heirloom many years from now. We shall see what the final chosen design is when the Classic Pens ZJ2 Parisienne is released.


The author would like to thank Classic Pens for loaning the ZJ2 Parisienne pens for this article.

Selected References

"Classic Pens ZJ1 Mozaique," Classic Pens website

"Classic Pens CP8 Murelli Pens," Classic Pens website

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