Casein is peculiar stuff. While there’s no denying that there are some problems associated with it, the depth and luminosity of colour that it offers can’t be matched by any other material. It positively glows.
The problem that concerns most people is that they will not recognise it as casein, immerse it in water and destroy the pen. This one is easily dismissed – regardless of the material from which they’re made – keep your pens out of water! There’s no benefit to be gained from exposing the externals of a pen to liquid of any kind.
What is more worrying is the insidious effect of exposure to varying humidity over many years. The casein absorbs a little moisture when the humidity rises and expands slightly. When the humidity falls, it releases the moisture and shrinks again. Over time, this leads to cracking. Craquelure is all very well on Old Master paintings but it isn’t so welcome in pens. I’ve seen Burnhams disintegrate from this effect. Perhaps because they treated the casein differently in some way, Conway Stewarts never get quite so bad. Usually it’s more of a disfiguring surface haze.
I think it was Jonathan Donahaye who suggested that those casein pens that are perfect today after the passage of fifty or more years were probably undisturbed in a box in a drawer for all that time. That seems a very likely explanation to me.
This Conway 15 pen/Conway 25 pencil set is in that fortunate condition, showing the high gloss that these pens all had when they were new. It is an amazing material. It can’t really be mistaken for any of the other pen materials. The pen had been inked but it appears that it was not used. It had the original Conway Stewart sac. The pencil still has lead in it.
My husband delights in making me envious by describing British newsagents’ shops of old, with brightly-coloured Conway Stewarts hanging on a card awaiting sale. This Conway 15 is so fresh, glossy and new that it might have been removed from the card moments ago.