Stars of Egypt Limited
Sheaffer enters the super premium market with a flash of starlight
Even before the Valor was released, there were sounds of something bigger approaching, just over the horizon. Sheaffer, like most pen companies, routinely works with their dealers to get feedback on new and proposed models they are considering producing. In some cases, strict non-disclosure rules apply, as the proposed new product may change in form, features, or pricing, get delayed, or never be produced at all. No need for embarrassing, incorrect pre-release information getting out ahead of a new product launch. Unlike Hollywood, misinformation, especially about the mix of pricing and features, can cause serious problems downstream.
As much as two years ago there were hints that Sheaffer was working on a new pen. Dubbed by some as the "Targa II," this new pen eventually arrived in June, 2006 as the Valor, a pen poised to carry the Sheaffer brand into the future. With the advent of the Legacy Heritage Victorian in the fall of 2005, Sheaffer hinted that the company was also interested in upping the stakes into the moderately expensive Special Edition market. With a short manufacturing run, but being made to meet dealer orders rather than a set number, the US $450.00 Victorian allowed Sheaffer to test the market for a high end pen with the Sheaffer brand. The Victorians sold out to the dealer base before the 2006 catalogs were printed, which list the now unavailable pen.
The Victorian raised a lot of curiosity as to what the next Sheaffer Special Edition might be, as there were no denials that something was coming later in 2006. Would Sheaffer make another engraved sterling silver Legacy Heritage pen? Would there be a sterling silver Valor? The surprise is that the new pen is not merely the sterling silver version of the Valor, nor is it another step into the short run Special Edition market. The new the Stars of Egypt Limited Edition is a giant step into the super premium Limited Edition market with a pen priced to compete with the top models of the big players in that arena.
The Stars of Egypt Limited Edition is a masterpiece tribute to the early astronomers of ancient Egypt, rendered in very deeply engraved .925 sterling silver or solid gold. The pen has the look and feel of a found object, covered in the imagery of astronomy and Egyptian culture. These were the pyramid builders who used the stars and the Sun to align their temples and pyramids to the four cardinal points of the compass. These early astronomers also developed the 24-hour day, and the 365 day calendar, with 12 months of 30 days each followed by 5 additional days to balance with the solar year.
The pen's cap and barrel combine to show three major images arranged on a canvas representing the constellations near Orion and featuring the star Sirius. In ancient Egyptian astronomy, the star Sirius was the brightest in the night sky and is the stellar representation of Isis. Sirius appears in July, when the Nile River begins its annual flood, announcing the heat of the summer and the coming of the harvest in the fall. The Nile flooding gave fertility to the soil. Because of the importance of Sirius, the ancient Egyptians based their calendar on its coming. On the solid gold Stars of Egypt pen, the Sheaffer White Dot is replaced by a .25 karat diamond representing that star.
The back face of the cap is dominated by the figure of the constellation we know as Orion, but the Ancient Egyptians saw as Osiris, the God of the Underworld. The figure is set at the center of a burst of rays which are further framed in a circle motif that extends around to the front face of the cap, creating an interesting winged appearance at the sides of the clip.
The barrel has two large images that work together on the top side, the same face as the nib face. The pyramid represents the Great Pyramid at Giza, one of three principal pyramids. Some believe that the three represent a sky map of the three stars of the Belt of Orion. The cap of the pyramid derived from the Eye of Ra or Eye of Horus. This symbol, also rendered as the Eye of Providence, appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States of America and on the reverse of the US one dollar bill. This eye allowed Osiris to oversee his underworld domain.
The design is done so that the pen is a unified visual with the cap on or viewed separately as cap and barrel.
As it is based on the Valor, the Stars of Egypt gets its Sheaffer heritage through the oversized White Dot centered in the front face of the blue resin cap top and the solid 18 karat gold Inlaid nib, set into a blue resin section. The Stars of Egypt is very large and heavy. Capped, it's 5 7/8 inches long and weighs 3 ounces. The design is such that posting this pen would not be recommended as it may damage the engraving work. As with the Valor, the pen shares the same large and fast cap threads, and mate metal on metal.
The Stars of Egypt Limited Edition set is based on the Valor, though a much upgraded and upscale version. Sheaffer is not using the Valor name with this edition, though the pen has the complete Valor profile. The Stars of Egypt will feature 18 karat gold Inlaid nibs and the cap top, barrel end cap, and section will all be a blue resin, rather than the black used on the Valor.
The Stars of Egypt Limited Edition will be released in mid-November, 2006 as two versions and two writing modes:
Stars of Egypt Sterling Silver
The sterling silver Stars of Egypt Limited Edition has a deeply engraved cap and barrel with blue resin cap top, barrel end cap, and nib section. It is available as a fountain pen or rollerball pen. The fountain pen has a palladium plated 18 karat gold nib and palladium plated clip. Each fountain pen will be packaged with a glass inkwell and each rollerball pen will be packaged with a glass paperweight, each adorned with a sterling silver medallion. This sterling silver medallion will be hallmarked at the Assay Office of London. The glass inkwells are made entirely by hand in the USA.
Identification guide and features:
Stars of Egypt Gold
The solid gold Stars of Egypt Limited Edition has a deeply engraved cap and barrel with blue resin cap top, barrel end cap, and nib section. Each solid gold pen will bear the the goldsmiths company hallmark from the Assay Office of London guaranteeing the purity and fineness of the gold. It's a world-renowned hallmark. It is available only as a fountain pen. The fountain pen has an 18 karat gold nib and 22 karat gold plated clip. Each fountain pen will be packaged with a crystal inkwell adorned with a vermeil (gold plate over sterling silver) medallion medallion. This vermeil medallion medallion will be hallmarked at the Assay Office of London. The crystal inkwells are made entirely by hand in the USA.
Identification guide and features:
The Stars of Egypt arrived in two waves, first the prototype silver and gold fountain pen came, each with a black resin 14 karat gold nib unit with an appropriate gold or palladium plated nib. As a first impression, the two pens struck me as indicative of the very deep and detailed engraving work being done in Italy, home to much of the very best sterling silver engraving work being done on pens today. It was immediately obvious that the gold pen was plated as I really didn't think I'd be seeing an actual solid gold pen done as a prototype, but the silver pen looked a bit too shiny to be sterling. As it turns out, both prototypes are plated brass, with the silver pen being all palladium plated. It makes sense to prototype serious engraving in brass and these two pens were top notch. I was really looking forward to seeing the real thing.
The second set of pens came, hot from the factory, an actual sterling silver proof set marked 000/360 (fountain pen) and 000/139 (rollerball pen). Complete in every way, including the new blue resin sections. If these represent final production, they will make happy homes wherever they go. The engraving is even crisper than the prototypes and the silver is highly polished, nearly as shiny as the palladium plated pen. In addition, the cap band showed the final production engraving, including the series numbering, missing from the prototypes.
Being based on the Valor, the Stars of Egypt are large size pens, but with even more heft, weighing in at 3 full ounces each. This is a pen that will stress a shirt pocket, if they ever find their way into one. I think they will live either on display or as most favored writing instruments, hardly leaving the desk at home. This will be a serious purchase, not a pen cup item.
Being all metal, the Stars of Egypt pens are initially cool to the touch, but warm nicely when in writing position. This is a large and heavy pen at 5 7/8 inches long capped. I would not post this pen, as I would not want to damage any of the detailed design work. I didn't post any of them. The metal on metal threads are fast, but work best with a slight reverse turn to ensure a smooth engagement of the cap and barrel and avoid any grinding. The sterling silver pens were delivered with anti-tarnish paper and I would expect, as with other sterling pens, that they would develop the classic warmth that noble metal gains from use.
Because of the engraving, the cap of the Stars of Egypt melds with the barrel work with less of the cap-heavy look of the Valor. It works so well that it's almost as if the design of the Valor was first thought of for an engraved metal based pen. The very large clip, plated the same color as the metal of the cap, blends well into the overall design and comes of more subtle than it does against the black background of the Valor. Don't get me wrong - I like the Valor design, it just integrates so smoothly in this design.
The fit and finish of each pen was excellent, and the engraving work on the proof set was outstanding, notwithstanding being very photogenic. The pens looked good from every angle, so photo setup was easy.
I've written with a Valor for several months now, and as these were not for consumption, I stayed off the inkwell with them. Expect them, if they perform like the Valor, to be slightly soft, wet writers as the Valor is. Sheaffer Inlaid nibs are consistently good writers, and the Valor nib unit is a very similar writing experience to the well loved Sheaffer Targa. Stars of Egypt owners who ink their pens will probably not be disappointed.
Sheaffer has placed the Valor in the flagship position in the line, and the Stars of Egypt takes the new model very quickly to a new neighborhood, the super premium market. Will the Stars of Egypt hold its own against the high dollar pens found in the Fifth Avenue neighborhood Montblanc boutique? Will it find itself in the case where the top Italian Limited Editions live? It's been years since Sheaffer offered a solid gold model, but this is much more than that. Sheaffer has set its goal on the stars. The Stars of Egypt should take them there.
Pens and background material courtesy of Sheaffer pen corporation. References to ancient Egyptian astronomy are from Wikipedia. All original photos copyright PenHero.com.
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