I recently purchased a steel nib fountain pen of Parker. I saw that the gold nib one was more expensive and I thought that gold nib might be for style hence I didn't purchase it.

What are gold nibs made of? Are they worth the price? Do they serve any other benefit other than style?

4 Answers 4


Gold nib fountain pens - invented around 1850 - were originally the standard as early (fountain pen) inks had corrosive properties. Although corrosion of nibs is no longer a problem, gold nibs have other advantages.

Pens of all kinds of metal (alloys) are often tipped with 'iridium' *, as the tip will have to endure the most. Apart from thickness and shape, the material qualities of the rest of the nib are decisive for the writing experience, as they determine ink flow and comfort of writing (that is, when compared to similar nibs of other materials on pens of equal size, shape, weight, balance, &c.).

Gold is the most malleable of the metals, so pure gold tips will relatively easily deform under the pressure of writing. This is why standard gold fountain pen nibs are made of 14, 18, or 21 karat gold (out of 24k), meaning (+/-) 42%, 25%, or 12,5% respectively consists of other metal(s) to strengthen the nib.
Nevertheless, when compared to other nibs, gold nibs are known for their suppleness, springiness, and a softer writing experience that adapts to the writer's hand.

Golden nibs are also praised for their durability. Gold (alloy) will last longer as it is less prone to corrosion than other metals, but modern steel alloys in combination with most modern inks will wear relatively slowly as well.

Whether golden nib fountain pens are worth the investment is impossible to answer objectively: it depends on how often and much one writes, personal preference with regards to the writing experience compared to the (wealth and often comparable qualities of) alternatives and the aesthetics of the precious metal over that of other materials, the cost-quality and cost-durability ratios, and whether or not and to what extent one regards such a pen as a statement and symbol of prestige.
One author makes the compelling case that gold nibs are only really worth it when you want the additional flexibility for line variation.

* More a synonym for 'fountain pen tip' than the actual metal, see https://www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/wheres-iridium

Further reading:


What are gold nibs made of?

Gold. Pretty much truth in advertising, but in terms of usability, 14k is actually better than the higher karat counts, and stainless steel is just fine. 18k is often too soft to have the tensile "spring" required for flexible nibs, while stainless steel is what makes springs, and does just fine.

Nibs are usually tipped with a harder substance (iridium was common on vintage pens), to make them harder wearing, and polished to make them write smoothly. Gold, on its own, is typically too soft for a good writing tip, and would wear out relatively quickly.

Are they worth the price?

Depends on the nib. On a modern pen, though, I'd say no. On a vintage Waterman fountain pen where the nib is actually flexible? Absolutely. On a vintage Sheaffer Touchdown or Snorkel, where the gold nib is platinum plated? You bet.

Do they serve any other benefit other than style?

The main reason for the usage of gold and platinum in nibs used to be corrosion-resistance, but is pretty much as you suspected, for the "office jewellery" factor on modern pens.

  • 1
    Thank you for the detailed information. Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 8:02

I am not an expert in this matter, but here is my understanding.

The tip of the nib slowly "erodes", according to the writing style of the owner (that is why some people do not lend their fountain pens). Gold erodes faster, so you will get the optimum writing quality sooner.

On the other hand, if the entire fountain pen is steel / silvery, then a yellow gold nib would look unesthetic.


When it comes to gold, it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

It seems as though the manufacture comes into play when it comes to quality control of nibs and pens. More so than what type of material is better to use.

Source: Haas Berkeley

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