Aurora Optima

The current state of affairs in the world has kept me rather busy, but I am back with a review of the Aurora Optima.

Bias Alert: I love Aurora pens. I collect Aurora pens. I try to be as objective as possible when dealing Aurora pens, but I’m not perfect. That said, I am not compensated by Aurora or their North American distributor Kenro in any way, shape, or form.

These pens are named after the original Optima, Aurora’s top of the line pen from 1938 until 1945. There is some family semblance–they’re close in size, the cap bands from early Optimas are similar to modern Optimas, and both bear Aurora’s barrel embossing, but the similarities basically stop there. The original Optimas were vacuum fillers, and the modern versions have other functional and aesthetic differences.

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Note the cap band variations.

The Optima can be had in six or seven different celluloid finishes, black resin with different cap options, the sterling silver Riflessi variant, and countless limited edition options. In many ways it still remains at the top of Aurora’s lineup, even if the 88 is widely considered the flagship model.

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Functionally, the Optima is identical to the Aurora 88 and much of what I said about the 88 applies to the Optima as well. The Optima is a shorter pen–both capped and uncapped–but has the same girth as the 88. Even with its shorter length, I can use the Optima posted or unposted, but it feels like it should be posted. Writers with larger hands may find the Optima a bit too short to use unposted.

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I have two versions of the Optima. The gray Nero Perla variant is a regular edition pen and has a lovely factory oblique double broad nib. The nib is very smooth but not especially forgiving. I generally prefer an obliquely-cut italic nib over a straight-cut stub nib, but that’s just me. I would caution potential buyers to try a cheaper pen with an oblique nib to make sure it’s compatible with their writing style before dropping the serious change for an Optima (and enduring the wait, as Aurora’s specialty nibs are generally made to order.)

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I was always curious how Aurora Optima’s Nero Perla (Black Pearl) finish compared to the Cracked Ice Conklin Duragraph, shown here if someone else is equally curious. They’re vaguely similar, but Aurora’s celluloid is a fair bit deeper, shinier, and feels much softer/warmer than the Conklin acrylic.

My other Optima, and the one I actually purchased first, is the 365 Abissi Limited Edition model from a few years ago. Aurora over-hyped the pen and released doctored promotional materials; subsequently the pen was maligned on the internet. I won’t excuse Aurora’s snafu, but I was able to pick this pen up for a steal because of it. I will say that the Abissi material is quite interesting, even if it’s nothing like the promo photos: it almost appears black, but subtle colors and chatoyance shimmer and dance below the surface. It reminds me a lot of an especially deep lake near my home that I kayak often–it’s usually too dark to peer into its murky depths, but floating sediment and shapes glimmer in the correct light. Abissi is Italian for Abyss, after all. My photos here accentuate the glittery qualities of the pen a little bit more than what it typically looks like in person.

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This is a very subtle finish, much more subtle than the promo photos would have one believe.

Both pens are extremely warm, soft, and smooth, as celluloid pens tend to be.

The Aurora Optima is well made and oozes class. It doesn’t feel as “timelessly modern” as the 88, instead staying true to its art deco roots. The Optima feels like a pen from the late 30’s, but made today.

Pros:

  • Many beautiful options to suit any taste.
  • Pleasant, usable size.
  • Available with Aurora’s full lineup of nibs.
  • It is an Aurora.
  • It has the magic reserve feature but. . .

Cons:

  • . . .it’s a pain in the ass to clean.
  • Optimas are very pricey out of the gate, but the price quickly escalates when special editions, precious materials, or specialty nibs get involved.

Specs:

  • Cap:
    • Screw cap.
    • 1.25 turns to remove.
    • Posts very securely.
  • Nib:
    • 14k or 18k Large Aurora proprietary nib unit with ebonite feed, shown in Fine and Oblique Double Broad.
    • Available in yellow gold, rose gold, or rhodium plated depending on the model.
    • Nib units screw-out and are interchangeable with like Aurora pens.
    • Commonly available nib grades are extra fine, fine, medium, and broad. Specialty nib grades include BB, Factory Stub, Factory Italic, and oblique nibs (OM, OB, OBB,) along with the Goccia EF, F, and M nibs. Not all retailers carry specialty nibs, so potential users will have to search for them (and pay extra).
    • I know for certain that Oblique Fine and reverse obliques (OFR, OMR, OBR, and OBBR) were available at one time, but I’ve only seen them on vintage pens from “nib testing” sets. Writers interested in those may be able to special-order them, however.
  • Body:
    • Resin, Auroloide (celluloid), or precious metal overlay.
    • Pictured here: Nero Perla and Abissi celluloid.
  • Filling System:
    • Piston filler with magic reserve.
    • 1.2mL capacity.
  • Length:
    • Capped: 126mm
    • Uncapped: 124mm
    • Posted: 155mm
  • Weight:
    • Total: 21g
    • Body: 14g
    • Cap: 7g
  • Section diameter:
    • 10.5-12mm
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Top to bottom: Lamy Safari, Aurora Optima, Aurora 88
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Top to bottom: Lamy Safari, Aurora Optima, Aurora 88
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Top to bottom: Lamy Safari, Aurora Optima, Aurora 88

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Published by

MatB

I am a fountain pen enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “Aurora Optima”

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