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Parker: Ivorine, Pastel, and Moire, Oh My!

(This page published December 1, 2022)

Some pen collectors — and users — gravitate to oversize pens. Now, some of those pens might seem too big to use comfortably, but this is not a bad thing, it’s merely a preference. Let us not forget, however, that there are little pens out there, too, many of them truly beautiful and useful. And collectible.
> [  Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Ivorine promotional sheet, 1921
This 1921 Ivorine pro­mo­tion­al sheet de­scribes the fea­tures and ben­e­fits of ca­sein but does not men­tion its prob­lems.

LogoIn 1916, venturing into pen materials with real color to attract women, who might be less than enchanted with the usual plain black or mottled red and black, the Parker Pen Company introduced its new “Ivorine” line of small pens in a medium-length No 20 size. Ivorine was a marketing name for casein (initially called galalith), a plastic material that was made by using formalin to harden the casein protein from ordinary skimmed milk . The material was widely used in making various small articles such as knitting needles, costume jewelry, and buttons for clothing.

Parker had taken a brief fling with casein in about 1906 with a range of “collegiate” pens. By 1908, these pens were marketed for their caps, called “The Cap with the Colored Crown.” Targeted primarily at students, this feature could be added to an otherwise ordinary BCHR No 20 or 21 eyedropper-filler or the new BHR No 24 click-filler, all of which had cone caps. It consisted of a cap crown in one or two colors at a premium of 10¢ or 25¢, respectively, in red, orange, green, purple, or white, or any combination of two colors. Shown here is part of a page from the July 1909 issue of Side Talks, Parker’s dealer newsletter.

Parker advertisement, 1909
Colorized image © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

The Ivorines, introduced nearly a decade after the collegiate pens, had caps and barrels made entirely of casein; they featured button fillers and screw caps, and they were advertised as being Safety-Sealed against leakage.

As described in the promotional sheet shown to the left above, printed in July 1921, Ivorine pens came in six very bright colors. Missing from the promo sheet’s list of colors are several that had been withdrawn before the sheet was issued (see table below). The pens were offered with a ring top or a clip and with either a No 2 or a No 3 nib. A gold-filled cap band was a 75¢ option (see the magazine ad below at left), and for an extra $1.00, the ringtop’s inner cap (visible as the cap crown) could have a repoussé gold-filled overlay. Shown here are a Crimson Ivorine ringtop and a Jade Green Ivorine with a clip.

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Ivorine ad, 1921
Some images on this page can be clicked or tapped to display magnified versions for more detail. When you mouse over a clickable image, the image will give a visual indication by growing a little, and the mouse pointer will change to a magnifying glass. On a touchscreen device, touch and hold your finger on the image briefly to see if it reacts. If it does, you can tap it.

Although not widely advertised, the Ivorines apparently sold well. But there was a problem: the material itself. Not yet manufactured in the United States, it was produced by the International Galalith Gesellschaft Hoff and Company, a concern formed in 1904 by a merger of two manufacturers, Vereinigten Gummivarenfabriken in Harburg, Bavaria, Germany and Compagnie Française de la Galalithe in Levallois Perret, France, with a factory in Harburg. Parker imported its Ivorine material through the French office of IGGH&Co. In addition to the months-long time required for its manufacture, the casein supply dried up completely during the Great War as exports to the United States came to a halt. When Parker had run out of its prewar supply, production of Ivorines ceased until until after the war. (The pens were also not advertised during the war, and they did not appear in the 1918 Parker catalog.)

By the 1920s, commerce was flowing again, and on November 24, 1921, the company ran an advertisement to the trade, asserting, “Wherever these have been shown they have taken like wild fire.” The ad went on to say that a shipment of “twelve hundred pounds” (544.3 kg) of new Ivorine material had recently arrived from Bordeaux, France, on the S.S. Andree, to be made into Parker Safety Sealed Self Filling Pens (by which was meant Ivorines, the only Parker pens that were made of casein). When Parker’s 1921–1922 catalog made its appearance, the line had shaken out to four standard models. The 1921 trade ad referred to above has caused some confusion among modern collectors: it listed three sizes at three different prices, but the catalog makes it clear that the Ivorine pens were all the same size, with different furniture treatments accounting for the price differences:

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Parker also faced the unavoidable fact that although it was otherwise an ideal material for pens, casein is quite hygroscopic. If immersed in water, it can expand as much as 10% from moisture absorption, and upon drying out again it will be irreparably deformed and possibly crazed as well. Furthermore, it discolors easily (see the Jade Green pen above), and it stains readily even when used with benign inks. As soon as it became possible to replace casein with a better material, Parker did so.

New! Improved! Price Reduced!

Parker Pastels advertising blotter, C. 1926
This Parker Pastels ad­ver­tis­ing blot­ter was a pro­mo­tion­al item made avail­able to Parker deal­ers. A deal­er­ship would have its own in­for­ma­tion im­print­ed in the space at the bottom by a lo­cal let­ter­press print­ing shop.

LogoIn the mid-1920s, Parker was among the many companies that began working with celluloid. The very earliest celluloid pens appeared in Switzerland in the 1880s, but not until the LeBoeuf Fountain Pen Company started making celluloid pens in about 1919 did celluloid “hit the big time.” In 1925, a year after Sheaffer wowed the market with Radite, its trademarked marketing name for celluloid, Parker began transitioning its own manufacture to celluloid. The Ivorines disappeared at that time, and in the summer of 1926 Parker introduced a new line called Parker Pastels. Like their Ivorine predecessors, the Pastels were initially made in the medium-length No 20 size.

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Made of celluloid (which Parker called Permanite), Pastels were a great improvement over the discontinued Ivorines. Like the Ivorines, they came in several attractive colors, and they were offered as ringtops or with clips. Celluloid is much lighter in weight than ebonite, and Parker made hay by advertising that the new Pastels were 28% ligher than those old-fashioned hard rubber pens. Depending on the level of trim and on whether the metel fittings were nickel plated or gold filled, ringtop Ivorines had cost 25¢ or 50¢ more than Ivorines with clips; but Pastel pens were all priced at $3.50, and matching pencils bore a $3.00 price. Gift-boxed sets were $6.50, and Parker advaertised that the gift box was free.

Among pen manufacturers, the common practice of the time was to advertise primarily their high-end models (e.g., Parker's Duofold), leaving the lower-end pens as something the dealer could switch a buyer onto if the top line's tariff was just too high. Contrary to this practice, Parker advertised its Pastels fairly widely, especially targeting women because the pens were small and because their bright colors would harmonize with ladies' clothing and accessories. On the blotter illustrated to the right above is the phrase “Slender Pens and Pencils that fit slim feminine fingers.” Sales were brisk.

The Evolution of Parker Pastels

First-generation Pastels featured monotone colors and were trimmed with a single protruding cap band 0.120" (3.05 mm) wide, like that on the 1926 Duofold. The Magenta ringtop shown above is typical of these pens, whose No 2 nibs were imprinted Parker Lucky Curve Pen Made In U.S.A.

In February 1927, Parker introduced a new set of colors, with a straight-line so-called “moiré” pattern created by alternating lengthwise strips of colored celluloid with clear. The moiré design was changed in June to a true moiré with broken intersecting lines, illustrated by the Coral Moire pen below. The magnified color chip is from the matching pencil.

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Moiré pattern

In mid-1927 there were two other significant changes. The first was the appearance of a slightly heftier version of the Pastel, illustrated in the group of three pens below, with a girth the same as that of the Lady Duofold. This pen was available with either a single or double cap bands. The original, smaller version, often referred to as the Pastel Petite, received a stylistic upgrade in the form of a broader cap band, the same 0.125" (3.18 mm) width as the double bands on the larger pen but with a recessed middle painted black to simulate two separate gold-filled bands (illustrated above). This simplified method for creating multiple cap bands was used by several manufacturers, but few found it quite so stylistically effective as Parker, on whose pens it coordinated with the section and inner cap to produce a unified whole.

In 1928, as illustrated by the Apple Green pen shown below, the black-lined band of the Pastel Petite was replaced with two separate bands like those on the larger model, probably because the paint was prone to chipping out when the pen was carried in a purse or a handbag, where it could rattle around amidst other hard objects. The pen remained otherwise unchanged.

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Parker Pastels Advertisement, 1929
This Parker Pastels ad­ver­tise­ment appeared on the in­side cov­er of the July 27, 1929, issue of The Saturday Evening Post: “Mo­derne Har­mo­nies de­mand foun­tain pens in these dainty pas­tel shades to match a gown or bou­doir.” Fea­tured with the Pas­tels was the new True Blue, al­so priced at $3.50.

With the 1929 redesign of the Duofold, Parker also redesigned its lesser pens. For the Pastels, this meant streamlining their barrels but not their caps, except on the heftier model mentioned above and shown below (third).

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The Design and Construction of Parker Pastels

Parker Pastels desk set catalog page

In their design and construction, the Pastels were no different from any of Parker's other pens of the time. They were button fillers with a screw-in inner cap that secured the usual Parker washer clip (if present). The inner cap and blind cap were hard rubber, as were the section and the Lucky Curve feed. At some point after the first generation, Pastels began carrying a No 2 nib with a PARKER PEN imprint instead of the LUCKY CURVE imprint.

As it did for other models in the late 1920s, Parker offered desk bases with tapers to convert Pastels to complete desk sets. The 1929 catalog page shown to the right offers chrome-plated bases in Lavender (Mauve Moire) and Green (Apple Green Moire) for $4.50, with a third set featuring a gold-plated base and a Chinese Yellow Lady Duofold at $10.00 for the complete set or $5.00 for the base and taper without a pen. A complete travel set in blue, with a Naples Blue pen and a chrome-plated base, included an imitation leather travel case and was priced at $8.00.

Never waste a good thing. The Pastels’ colors turned up in other places. Shown below at left is a Lady Duofold-sized desk set, whose pen is the same size as the larger Pastel pens but whose color scheme does not match anything in the Pastels line. The desk base is a cobalt blue, the section and barrel are black, and the taper is Naples Blue Moire. This pen was part of a collection offered in the 1927 Parker catalog (below, center). The set below at right has a Coral Moire barrel and taper, with a base that is marbled in Coral, Naples Blue, and the light Turquoise Blue of the Ivorines. This latter set was probably assembled by a dealer or a customer from a stock Coral pen and a Coral taper (available separately for 70¢).

Naples Blue Pastels desk set
Catalog page
Naples Blue Pastels desk set
Photo © 2022 Mike Kennedy. Used with permission.

The Colors of the Parker Pastels and the Parker Moire Pens

As described in the preceding paragraphs, there were three generations of colors on the Parker Pastel pens:

The blotter illustrated at the beginning of this article lists a set of six colors, separating them with commas such that there cannot be any confusion:

Parker Pastels catalog page, 1929
This 1929 catalog page shows the six colors of the Parker Moire Pens (formerly Parker Pastels).

That blotter, which shows solid colors, was made before Green was added, dating it to no later than February 1927. Once Green, later called Apple Green, was added, the original solid-color Pastels actually offered a palette of seven colors.

With the changeover to moiré colors, Parker capitalized on the more subdued colors created by the presence of the clear areas. From the Post advertisement above:

Here are the softer colors that the modern woman so enjoys—the tints that blend with dainty gowns or the colors of her boudoir. Here is “that touch of smartness,” exhibiting a sense of the ensemble that distinguishes the style-leaders of today.

Gray disappeared; and Beige, with the darkening influence of the clear areas, became Beige Gray Moire.

LogoAs indicated by the 1929 catalog page to the left, the Parker Pastels at some point (possibly with the introduction of the new 1929 styles) became the Parker Moire Pens.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

The Parker Pastels/Moire Pens were discontinued in about 1932, after seven years in the catalog, as Parker was readying its product line for a complete revamp spearheadead by the revolutionary Vacumatic.

The World of Color

Except for the second-generation straight-line Moire colors, the color chips in the following tables were produced by photographing actual pens under flat lighting and adjusting the results until the on-screen images matched the pens under light with a color temperature of 3000° K. 3-D highlights were added with a computer. The second-generation color chips were created with a computer using samples taken from the third-generation images and therefore might not be totally accurate representations. Note that the second-generation pattern was not applied to Naples Blue; blue Pastels remained plain.

Colors of the Ivorines
Color Name

Crimson Crimson
Mauve Mauve
Taupe Taupe
Coral Coral
Orange Orange
Jade Green Jade Green
Turquoise Blue Turquoise Blue
Royal Purple Royal Purple
Old Rose Old Rose
French Grey French Grey
White White
Black Black

Colors of the Pastels, First Generation
Color Name

Magenta Magenta
Mauve Mauve
Coral Coral
Beige Beige
Gray Gray
Naples Blue Naples Blue
Apple Green Apple Green

Colors of the Pastels, Second Generation
(straight-line “moiré”)
Color Name

Magenta Moire Magenta Moire
Mauve Moire Mauve Moire
Coral Moire Coral Moire
Beige Gray Moire Beige Gray Moire
Naples Blue Naples Blue (carried over unchanged from first generation)
Apple Green Moire Apple Green Moire

Colors of the Pastels and Moire Pens, Third Generation
(true moiré)
Color Name

Magenta Moire Magenta Moire
Mauve Moire Mauve Moire
Coral Moire Coral Moire
Beige Gray Moire Beige Gray Moire
Naples Blue Moire Naples Blue Moire
Apple Green Moire Apple Green Moire

  1. The page fragment indicates that a design patent for the colored crown caps had been applied for. The patent was not granted.  Return
  2. “Attractive Novelty in the Fountain Pen Line,” Office Appliances, February 1921, 55.  Return
  3. Parker catalogs used the word “Moire” without the nominally correct accent mark over the e.  Return
  4. Parker discontinued the Lucky Curve feed in about 1929. To dispose of unused stock, the factory cut off the Lucky Curve portion of the feed, leaving a Christmas Tree feed that was flat on the back like competitors’ comb feeds but lacked the buffering capacity of a comb feed.  Return
  5. Some modern collectors, not having seen a true Beige Gray Moire pen, mislabel age-discolored Mauve Moire pens as Beige Gray Moire.  Return

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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