There was a vogue for snakeskin and lizard-skin patterned celluloids in the latter part of the 1930s. Several manufacturers issued their versions of these reptile patterns in many different colours. Generally, the lizard-skin variety is the one made up of smaller blocks. These patterns were popular in Swan pens, and snakeskin appears in several models across the range.
This is one of the smaller Swans, an SM112B-84, measuring 11.6cm capped and bearing a No1 nib. It’s a thoroughly Art Deco pen with its Empire-style stepped clip. The clip is also unusual in being of the washer type, a method rarely used on Swans. The cap and barrel ends are black, and there’s a white Swan image on the cap top. The green of the pattern is especially intense. All in all, this is a jewel of a pen. It’s not just ornamental, though. The semi-flex oblique stub nib is a delight to write with.
These snakeskin Swans are not rare, nor even particularly uncommon, but they are much sought after for their beauty and make a good price. They can have their problems. The celluloid was not totally stable and some of these pens can be distorted in the middle of the barrel, giving a gaping lever slot. Almost always, the plastic has shrunk a little, gripping the section fiercely. It can take many applications of moderate dry heat to free the section up. Patience is the watchword: too much heat will distort the barrel and too much force will break it. The section is black hard rubber, so soaking is not advised. Dry heat works better anyway.
These gem-like pens are well worth the additional effort needed to restore them.