Pen Options‎ > ‎

Pen Metal Platings

The metal trim pieces on a pen are typically made of brass. Such pieces include the nib at the tip of the pen, the centerband, the clip, and the finial at the top of the pen. These brass components are electro-plated with precious metals to give the beautiful luster that is associated with fine writing instruments. Each type of metal plating has its own physical properties, such as hardness and brittleness. This will determine how well the parts can cope with the abrasions and chemical exposure of daily use.

All platings will wear with use. For them to wear down to the point that the underlying brass begins to show will usually take several years with the softest metals. For the hardest metals, such as rhodium, it may take one or more lifetimes. The way that you care for your pen can effect this wear rate dramatically. If you avoid abrasive situations, such as placing the pen in your pocket or purse against other hard objects, and if you periodically wipe your metal surfaces clean with a damp cloth, you can significantly extend the life of your metal plating. Below is a summary of the various metal platings that are used. I've attempted to list them in order of their expected longevity (shortest to longest). Since the specific process that a manufacturer uses when electro-plating can effect its wear resistance, this ordering is merely an approximation. Each of these platings may only be available in selected pen styles.

 Standard Gold
Relatively pure 24Kt or 22 Kt gold is a soft metal that by itself does not stand up well to wear. To increase wear resistance, this gold is usually covered with a durable epoxy finish.
 Premium Gold  
This is a gold alloy where the gold is mixed with nickel, cobalt or other metals to increase the hardness of the metal. The gold plating may also be thicker on pen parts designated as upgraded gold. This gold will wear better than standard gold.
 ChromiumChromium is a widely used metal plating that is very hard and has excellent resistance to scratches and chemicals. It is more brittle than other metals so you should avoid hard impacts. Chromium makes a very attractive pen plating that will last a long time.
 Titanium Gold
The metal parts are first coated with titanium nitride that has been matched to the color of gold. Titanium nitride is an extremely hard ceramic material that is also used to coat drill bits for extended wear. A layer of gold is then plated over top of the titanium nitride. When the gold eventually wears, it exposes the titanium nitride. Since the titanium nitride is the same color as the overlying gold, the wear is not visible.
 PlatinumPlatinum is an expensive precious metal ($1000 per oz. at this time) that is known for its great wear resistance and rich luster. It is commonly used in fine jewelry.
 RhodiumRhodium is currently $850 per oz. It is in the platinum family, however it is slightly more reflectant than platinum making it appear brighter. It is also slightly harder than platinum making it one of the premier pen platings.
 Black Titanium
Titanium Oxide is the hardest metal available for pen coatings. Its only "down" side is that it has a dark smoky color rather than the bright brilliance of platinum and rhodium. With the appropriate pen style and body, this can give a very dramatic and rich appearance.

All of the last five metals on this chart are considered to be "premium" platings will last a very long time. Several pen styles are only available in standard gold. Although standard gold plating is not as tolerant of abuse as the premium platings, I only purchase components from vendors with a good track record on their gold finishes. With proper care, your standard gold pen should maintain its appearance for several years of heavy use. Pen components can usually be replaced for a nominal charge if you want to "refresh" your pen in the future.

There are several other less common platings, such as copper, satin nickel, satin pearl, black chrome, gunmetal, and black enamel. If you are going for a specific look in your pen, let me know and I can steer you toward styles that come in these more unusual platings. These can look dramatic with the right body.