Filcao Sylvia 2005-2008
by Jim Mamoulides, January 25, 2013
A dedicated pen
The Filcao Sylvia is an homage. First, the pen is dedicated to Sylvia Abrate, wife of the US importer of Filcao pens, Giovanni Abrate. Secondly, it's an obvious homage to the Pelikan 100N of 1938. According to the Filcao website, the Sylvia is "reminiscent of the classic german-inspired designs of Italian companies such as Goldmichel of the 1930s and '40s." Goldmichel was founded by Walter Engele, a German immigrant to Settimo Torinese, near Turin, Italy, where Filcao is also located. The Goldmichel Privat pen is a very similar in design to the Pelikan 100N.
The Sylvia's cap and clip design are very visually very similar to the Pelikan 100N except for a single wide cap band on the Sylvia, as is the entire pen with the cap on. The design varies more from the 100N when the cap comes off. The Pelikan 100N is a piston-fill pen, based on the landmark Pelikan 100, introduced in 1929. The 100N was a redesign of the 100, with a more rounded piston knob, and the "N" in the model name literally stands for "new." The Sylvia is a button-filler designed to capture the look of the piston-filler 100N, so the piston knob on the end of the barrel of the 100N inspires an end cap to cover the button. This button cover is shorter than the piston knob on the 100N.
The barrel on the Sylvia is a hand turned tube that can be any color, reflecting the colorful barrels on many 100N pens. This colored section of the barrel of 100N is shorter than on the Sylvia, extending only to where the cap covers the barrel, but extending all the way to the section on the Sylvia. As on the 100N, the Sylvia typically has the cap top, section and blind cap in black.
The Sylvia's cap and barrel are hand turned from solid blocks of acrylic resin. Standard colors for the Sylvia included all black cap and barrel, black cap with striated green barrel, black cap with marbled green barrel, and black cap with pearl green barrel. Other colors were made available during production. Filcao used Schmidt stainless steel nibs and Mutschler 14 karat gold nibs. Models with 14 karat gold nibs were also known as Sylvia Oro, though the only difference in the models was the nib. Filcao used .925 sterling silver or gold plated cap bands with matching rhodium or gold plate trim on most models.
According to the Filcao website, the company is a family-run business based in Settimo Torinese, near Turin, Italy. The company started manufacturing pens in the late 1960s and as of 2009 was still run by its founder, Franco Grisolia. Franco Grisolia is known as a collector and personally engaged in designing and creating prototypes. Filcao has an extensive line of writing instruments, including fountain pens, rollerball pens, ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils and manufactures them in precious metals, finished metals and resins. Franco Grisolia is quoted saying, "Our pens are entirely realized and hand-mounted. The small imperfections are typical of the Hand-made Products and the they raise their value."
A Sylvia Christmas Edition was offered in 2008 with a red marbled acrylic cap and barrel, with black cap top, section and end cap button cover.
A Sylvia Limited Edition of 200 pieces was offered with either a red or ivory colored acrylic cap, section and end cap button cover and striated green acrylic barrel. These pens were fitted with a two-tone medium 14 karat gold nib with the “F” of Filcao stamped.
Identification guide and features:
- Hand turned black acrylic cap, with black section and blind cap
- Hand turned acrylic barrel included black, ivory colored, dark green, striated green and green marbled acrylics
- Barrel stamped with Filcao logo
- Sterling silver .925 or gold plated cap band
- Rhodium or gold plated plain clip, to match cap band color, some early models are stamped "FILCAO" on the face
- Offered with choice of two-tone gold plated stainless steel nib with "F" Filcao logo or plain 14 karat gold medium nib hallmarked "14K-585"
- Stainless steel nibs were offered in accountant, fine, medium and broad grades, 14 karat gold nib was medium only
- Screw on cap
- About 5 1/2 inches long capped, and about 6 1/8 inches long with the cap posted on the end of the barrel
- Weighs 1.3 ounces
- Button filling system
- Retail price $135 with stainless steel nib and $185 with 14 karat gold nib
- Luxury gift box
Out of the box the Sylvia certainly carries the look of the Pelikan 100N. Not having one to compare it to, I quickly went to my reference books to compare the pen to photographs of that very collectible Pelikan. With the cap on, you can see the 100N design influence. The Filcao website shows an advertisement for a piston-filling 100N style Goldmichel pen from the 1930s/40s. To me, that gives the Sylvia roots in Settimo Torinese, as opposed to being simply a model made for collectors in the style of a popular vintage pen.
It's actually larger than I expected, being 5 1/2 inches long capped, and a long 6 1/8 inches with the cap posted, due to the length of the cap. The Sylvia sits pretty low in the pocket, with the top of the cap showing. The clip is very firm, with little give, and grips your pocket securely.
The button-filling mechanism is a very well designed all metal unit that works efficiently. Remove the blind cap, insert the nib section in the ink bottle, press the button, and wait 10-20 seconds for a good fill. I was very pleased with this surprising vintage touch, as opposed to making this a cartridge / converter pen. It did not disappoint me that the Sylvia was not made as a piston-filler, though that thought crossed my mind in seeing the obvious Pelikan 100N design influence.
The fit and finish of the cap and barrel are excellent. The green marble acrylic of the barrel is nice, but I would have hoped for some choices more like the tortoise materials on the Pelikan. The gold plated hardware appears to be very good quality and compliments the pen well. The pen has a nice balance and weight for its size and feels well made.
The nib is a very smooth and even writing firm medium. It's very plain, which is a disappointment considering the more elaborately stamped stainless steel nibs that also carry the Filcao logo. It may be that a plain hallmarked nib was a cost decision. A more fancy looking nib would have completed the Pelikan 100N conceit.
Overall, the Sylvia is a very good everyday user pen. It writes very well and the button-filler adds a nod to vintage pens from the 1920s through the 1940s. A piston-fill mechanism would have been very nice, but likely would have pushed the pen well out of the $135-$185 price range. At those prices, the Sylvia is a good value. I am not clear if they are still in production, as the Filcao website shows no updates since 2009, but if not, a used or mint Sylvia would be a pen worth having.
Filcao Pens, Copyright © 2009, Filcao
Fountain Pens of the World, Andreas Lambrou, Copyright © 1995, Zwemmer, London, England
Tryphon Enterprises Filcao Catalog, Copyright © Undated, Tryphon Enterprises, West Palm Beach, FL
Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Jim Mamoulides