(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter. And check out her first novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, now available where books are sold!)
I'm usually pretty well behaved, so it's no surprise when Santa brings me stationery. I must have been REALLY good last year, though, because Santa did surprise me with my very first Visconti pen—the Mirage, in a lovely Evergreen color.
I've admired Viscontis before, but their high price points mixed with rumors of dodgy quality control have always put me off. I was very excited to finally get a chance to try one.
The Mirage is a new entry-level Visconti pen to celebrate the company's 30th anniversary. Their previous entry-level offerings have often been priced higher than many folks' upper limits, so adding a new tier was, I think, a great idea. I did worry, though, that if the quality of their expensive pens varied so much, what sort of pen would be on offer for 1/5 the price?
Well, apart from an introductory hiccup, I think they've offered a very decent pen. The hiccup, though, required some resources that many new pen buyers won't have.
My first impression of the pen was good--it's beautiful. The body is a rich, shimmery, swirly vegetal resin that catches the light like magic. The body has fluted grooves and a decorative palladium-plated cap band that give the piece a very Art Deco look. It has the signature arched clip with the Visconti name engraved in it. The bottom finial has a metal Visconti logo that can be removed with a magnet and replaced with your initials or a gemstone. The grip section is smooth and round, in the same material as the body. The nib is a new steel design, with more Art Deco-styled etching.
Maybe it's because I associate that clip with high prices, but this pen looks more expensive than it is. With the lower price, as one might expect, it doesn't have a lot of the fancy Visconti features, but it does have a few. That magnetic finial is one, another is the spring-loaded clip, and there's also the self-aligning magnetic cap. The cap holds securely and closes with a satisfying self-propelled click. It's almost too fun, and between that and the springy clip, the cap is a meeting-fidgeter's delight.
The steel nib writes smoothly and with the perfect amount of wetness. It's very pleasant to write with.
My hiccup with the pen had to do with the converter. The converter included with the pen does not actually fit in the pen. It kind of, almost, sort of fits--just well enough that you can tell something is wrong. You can use it, but it doesn't get a good seal, so it's difficult to fill and tends to leak. The metal band at the neck of the section is too narrow for the plastic body of the converter, so you have to wrestle it in place. Mine did not stay in place.
The good news is, Visconti does make a converter that fits. You need to get the threaded piston converter. But that's not the one they included, because--well, because Visconti. Fortunately, I (I mean Santa!) purchased the pen from Anderson Pens, so I was able to bring the pen in, show them the issue, they swapped the converters, and I walked out a few minutes later with a pen that functions beautifully.
Most customers, though, would be purchasing the pen online and having it shipped to a pen-store desert. If you're doing this, be sure to request that the shop swap the converters for you. My worry is more for the casual shopper or inexperienced pen buyer who may pick one of these up, thanks to the accessible price. They're going to struggle to assemble and fill the pen, then get a lot of ink on their hands. If they're not tenacious enough to contact the shop, they may decide that fountain pens are fiddly and messy and nope right out of the hobby.
So, mostly bravo to Visconti for creating a new port of entry into their brand and fountain pens in general, but I hope they'll note this converter issue and start packing them with the proper accessories. If you're going to launch a product priced to attract new customers, you've got to make that first impression perfect. Especially when the product is otherwise so excellent.
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