When it comes to fountain pen nibs, almost any material can be used. But the materials must conform to certain rules: it must be malleable enough to be shaped into the very specific shapes of nibs and it must be able to last a long time without deforming or rusting. Some specialty pens have custom made glass nibs, but by far the most common material for fountain pen nibs is metal. Of course, not all fountain pens use the same metal, but there are three most commonly used metals in fountain pen nibs: steel, palladium-silver, and gold.
Steel nibs are becoming more and more common in the fountain pen market today. Although they may not have the luxury and elegance of gold nibs sometimes, their performance can be every bit as good. Steel nibs generally come in two flavors: unplated
Although both are steel nibs, the gold plating on the second one mimics the high endedness a real gold nib.
A middle ground between steel and gold, palladium silver nibs tend to be very shiny. They usually are very smooth with little feedback, and they keep their shininess for long amounts of time. These nibs were common in vintage pens, when palladium was cheaper, but nowadays, gold tends to be the gold standard. Very high end fountain pens sometimes use 21kt Palladium nibs instead of gold to opt for the brilliant shine.
By far the most common nib material, gold nibs for pens come mainly in 3 types: 14kt, 18kt, and 21kt. The reason 24kt (pure) gold is never used for nibs is because of the softness and malleability of pure gold. The nib itself would deform and become useless in a matter of hours. In fact, 14kt gold tends to be the best option for nibs. Gold nibs can also be unplated
Gold nibs tend to be plated in more expensive metals such as rhodium. Gold nibs also have a 3rd option, which is the most common: two tone nibs. By only plating some parts of the nib with rhodium, the nib can have some amazing designs such as in Pelikan nibs:
All in all, no matter what nib material you choose, there’s more important things, such as how the nib writes, which is something we’ll explore in the next edition!