This pretty dip pen has a Stanhope of the Crystal Palace. Such pens were popular in the last decades of the nineteenth century. This fine example screws apart to reveal the nib, set in a holder decorated with lines and stars.
There is a difficulty with it. The best of these were made from elephant ivory. Others, then and later, were copied in inferior materials such as walrus, hippopotamus or mammoth ivory, vegetable ivory, bone, celluloid, casein and later plastics. Determining which material this example is made from is a matter for an expert, something I most decidedly am not. However there are some tests that can be carried out and I went through them as well as I could.
Under considerable magnification bone and ivory have characteristic markings. Under a 20x loupe I did not see either. Chemical tests were beyond my ability as I don’t have the necessary materials. The final test, which has to be carried out with care in an area not usually seen, is with a red hot pin. I tried that and the pin did not sink into the material and there was no smoke. It did not smell of burnt hair which would have indicated bone.
The tests didn’t the suggest which material the pen is made from. My guess would be that it is either celluloid or a later plastic but I could easily be wrong.
Regardless of the material or the date of manufacture, this is a very attractive pen. The Stanhope of the Crystal Palace is clear and the carving (or moulding) is detailed and the pattern is consistent. The condition of the metal part, somewhat darkened and discoloured, suggests age. I don’t see any marks of a mould but they may have been removed by final work. As well as its considerable aesthetic attraction, it makes a practical dip pen, and because the nib can be reversed and screwed into the body of the instrument it is portable.
Some mystery remains with the pen because I am unable to say what its material is with certainty but it is a charming piece.