Pyroclastic Pair

Visconti Homo Sapiens Review: Bronze Age and Evolution

Today I am reviewing two pens from the Visconti Homo Sapiens range: the Bronze Age and the Evolution.  Both are made from a unique pyroclastic material, characteristic of the Visconti Homo Sapiens range. Sourced from Mt. Etna, the matte black Basaltic Lava is purported to be virtually indestructible.

First impressions

One can never accuse Visconti of not being stylish. These are classy looking pens and the volcanic material is rather tactile, as well as elegant. In fact, the lava material is extremely nice to hold and matte blackness is so very… black… and matte. There’s something rather restful about looking at it. And it’s lava, molten rock, which is rather cool. (Er, though it was once very, very hot).

Novel cap closures seem to be something Visconti do very well. I do like the unusual twist and lock cap on the Bronze Age. Similar to the bayonet lightbulb mechanism, It enables much quicker access than a screw cap and I must admit the novelty does appeal to me. The Evolution has a more traditional screw cap, but opens easily enough with one turn.

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age, as you might expect, has bronze detailing. The clip, cap finial and the rings on the cap and body are all natural bronze. As such, you can probably expect the pen to acquire a darker patina over time. The pen itself has the instantly recognisable and iconic Homo Sapiens style. This review model comes with an 18k rose gold Broad nib, which matches the bronze furniture rather well. The pen weighs 48g capped, or 31g uncapped (as per my own measurements).

 

Evolution

The Evolution is a rather different beast, and it is a bit of a beast. Weighing in at 65g capped and 38g uncapped, it’s a fair bit heavier than the Bronze Age to carry, though not very much more to use. The additional weight is mostly accounted for by the steel cap and filler cap. These are Ruthenium plated and decorated with subtle and elegant wavy lines in Palladium. The clip is also Galvanised Palladium. The real style wow, though, is the Chromium 18 skeleton nib. I absolutely adore design details like this, but how does it write?

Don’t panic, that’s just a reflection on the section, not a gash!
Writing Experience

The first issue for me is the very short section on the HS. Regular readers will know that I hold my pen a fair way back from the nib and so I find short sections uncomfortable. That said, both closing mechanisms are fairly unobtrusive.

These are oversized pens and will be a little too chunky for some hands. For me, they are borderline: not overly uncomfortable, but the balance doesn’t feel quite right in my hand. They seem top heavy, even without the cap posted, which I tend not to do anyway. I definitely wouldn’t recommend posting the cap, especially on the Evolution with its weighty steel cap.

But what about the nibs, I hear you cry! Visconti have gained something of a poor reputation as regards the quality and consistency of their nibs in recent years. I am pleased to report that neither of these review pens appear to be troubled by any issues and both wrote smoothly and wetly.

Bronze Age

I would probably have enjoyed the Bronze Age more if it wasn’t a Broad. However, this is purely down to my personal nib preferences and no reflection on the pen. The lava material feels really nice in the hand and its hygroscopic properties prevent any unpleasant, slippery sweatiness spoiling your writing experience.  What effect excessively sweaty hands would have on the pen in the long term is not something I have the ability or time to investigate. If anything I suffer from dry hands so perhaps extended use would leave me with  a mummified hand.

Evolution

I did actually rather enjoy writing with the Evolution and found excuses to pick it up and scribble the odd note with it and a page of a letter. Uncapped, it isn’t too heavy to write with for short to medium periods, though with the balance a little off, I probably wouldn’t enjoy using it for long periods at a stretch. Pity then that they dispensed with the HS twist lock in favour of a screw cap. The former would have been much more convenient for making quick notes. The section is the same material as the cap and thus lacks hygroscopic properties, which may make for a more slippery grip for some.

If you have a preference for soft and flexible nibs then these will not float your boat. The steel Evolution is an absolute nail, with virtually no give at all. The 18k gold Bronze Age nib is a little more flexible, but not much. However, these are designed to deliver a good ink flow with minimal pressure and they do this admirably. The Evolution in particular glided across the page like a penguin surfing an iceberg. Not half bad for a steel nib.

In Summary

I must admit that I have rather mixed feelings about Visconti pens. Stylistically, they are attractive,  but Visconti’s quality control in recent years leaves a great deal to be desired. Their pens can vary wildly in quality and performance. Overall, I feel that they are rather overpriced for the product that you get.

Specifically, in terms of these particular pens, I adore the volcanic material and the style of the Evolution, especially the cutout skeleton nib. Would I buy one? In all honesty, probably not. I did not find the pens entirely well balanced and they were a little too large and heavy for my hand. The sections are also very short, which is another deal breaker for me. The lava material from which they are made is very cool, so a small part of me would rather like one in my collection, though not at that price. I can think of several pens I’d rather spend that kind of money on.

Pro
  • Attractive design
  • Nice material feel in the hand
  • Smooth nibs
  • Unusual skeleton nib on the Evolution
  • Virtually indestructible material
  • Cool factor: They are made of lava!
Con
  • The Evolution is rather heavy
  • Balance in the hand is slightly top-heavy
  • Not suitable for posting (if that’s your thing)
  • Skeleton nib is steel, rather than gold
  • Overpriced
Who is it for

The price points certainly suggest that they are very much aimed at the luxury market. Not remortgage your house level of luxury, but with both pens in the £500-£1k bracket, definitely something you want to be sure you’ll like before purchasing. I would recommend trying these out before parting with your hard-earned to see if they are comfortable in your hand. Personally, I think the price tag is way too high for what you get. If you can afford to buy it for the novelty value, then you will likely enjoy it.

These will appeal to:

  • Fans of Italian pen designers (i.e., Dante Del Vecchio)
  • Lovers of chunky, oversized pens
  • People who need an indestructible pen body
  • Affluent novelty seekers
  • Volcanologists
The lowdown

Visconti pens are widely availably from all the usual specialist pen suppliers. The Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age can be yours for around £570 from a number of retailers. While the Visconti Homo Sapiens Evolution, which is a little harder to come by, can be yours from about £900. At time of writing, the only UK retailer I found was Write Here, though there are other stockists in Europe*.

*In addition to VAT and tax considerations, do bear in mind ease of return/replacement in the event of issues with your pen.

 

2 Replies to “Pyroclastic Pair”

  1. Good review, thanks.

    I have both these pens (HS Bronze Age with Palladium stub / Evolution with steel skeleton M) and don’t find any of the “cons “ listed to be a disadvantage in relation to my personal preferences.

    My Evolution – bought this month – cost £503 (including shipping). Given the cool material, design and nib, I think that’s not an altogether unreasonable price. Although I would not have invested £900 in it – splendid as the pen is.

    It is indeed quite hard to find (…especially at that price point!)

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