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BY DON FLUCKINGER • Done right, jeweled pens add a touch of class to one’s writing experience. Done wrong, it reduces a fine writing instrument to a flea-market trinket.
|I love lapis, and I wish Sheaffer had made a lapis-jeweled Targa before it discontinued manufacturing the model. And who doesn’t want a gold pen with a green stone on top?|
So it was with great trepidation that I asked Richard to install jewels atop a couple Targas. Trepidation first, because altering pens — vintage or modern — is a decision not to be taken lightly, for fear of said pens’ being pushed as prototypes into the collector market after I’m gone, or some such unsavory business.
Second, we all know that pens are something of an investment. In the case of Targas, they’re a small investment compared to, say, limited-edition Montblancs, but in the present economy money no longer grows on trees. Theoretically, the pen goes from an item possessing much appeal to a wide swath of collectors to a pen with appeal to one — or a select few.
Damning the torpedoes, I did it anyway, at least to a couple test pens, because it had far more upside. I and my boyhood friend-turned-Thailand-gemologist David Fortier of Tip Top Gem — the guy who gave the pen hobby the BelOMO tip — had been emailing back and forth for a year on this: Could he get me lapis and jade cabochons custom cut to fit perfectly?
The theory was, while the opals atop the rare Targas are quite costly and prized among collectors, looks-wise they left me wanting more. The even rarer Targas with sapphire, diamond, emerald or ruby studded clips, well, are interesting to collect but I just couldn’t see myself paying the king’s ransom to acquire one and then carrying the pen.
Plus, they’re just not my style. I love lapis, and I wish Sheaffer had made a lapis-jeweled Targa before it discontinued manufacturing the model. And who doesn’t want a gold pen with a green stone on top?
So David told me, the answers were yes and no: Lapis was easy. Afghan is the most sought-after, and wouldn’t you know he had connections. Burmese Jadeite, however, is embargoed and illegal to bring into the United States. But David found some quality mawsitsit, which hails from Hpakant — the area in Burma from which the finest jade comes — and it isn’t banned. It suited, well.
After a year of knocking about this concept over email — during which David relocated from South Korea to Thailand and built a new network of suppliers and stonecutters — he finally sent some test stones. I had some test pens, as it happened, and twisted Richard’s arm to help me get the stones mounted on the cap. My jewel-tops (shown at the beginning of this article) have a higher “dome” profile than the opals, by design. David sent us low-dome, medium, and high-dome cabochons, and Richard picked out the medium domes. I would have picked the low-domes, as those most closely resembled the origianl Sheaffer opal pens. Once they were mounted on the caps, however, it was clear he’d made the right choice, aesthetically.
They’re great-looking pens, I think. Anyone who’s read the feedback from my FPN discussion on this can see that a lot of collectors like the looks. Some share the same concerns I have: The last thing I want to do is give unscrupulous dealers something to pass off as a Sheaffer prototype decades from now. I’m looking into engraving them to prevent that. One poster, Solomon, got to the heart of the matter: “For years I have seen third-party jewel embellishments on Dupont pens and lighters and Rolex watches. And these items are sold openly and not hidden inside someone’s trenchcoat. In any case, when enquired, vendors clearly state the enhancements are aftermarket. This is also to prevent the buyer from sending in an item to an authorized agent for repairs/service.”
Next up: I have tiger-eye cabochons, black onyx, and fine Australian chrysoprase on its way. David’s also got me trying dendritic quartz (above, left) and fire agate (above, right) cabs on my Targas. Exotic stuff, but it enlivens your basic Targa quite a bit! Who knows where this will lead. Wish me luck, and post your cheers and jeers to the FPN thread.
Further Reading: Poison Pen: A Forensic Handwriting Mystery, by Shiela Lowe
If you've got the taste for mysteries on the gritty side and think a story in which handwriting is a main character has got to be cool, you might like this recent addition to a series by this author whose specialty is handwriting analysis in both fiction and nonfiction.
|Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site.|