Gold vs. Steel Nibs – The Great Debate

I get a lot of questions about why I prefer gold nibs, what the difference is.

You don’t tend to see glowing reviews of steel nibs from collectors, (they’re usually bought by people using their first few fountain pens) and few people address the nib construction in their reviews.

So what’s wrong with a steel nib?

Well nothing, unless you’ve written with nibs made of gold.

(I haven’t tried titanium yet…)

A main consideration when buying a fountain pen is of course cost. Fountain pens with stainless steel nibs are generally cheaper. There are some higher end brands that charge a few hundred for a steel nib because they can… people pay for the brand recognition.

It’s not an overstatement to say that all beginner or entry-level pens have steel nibs. They’re a great place to start to see if you enjoy writing with one and the experience of inking a pen for the first time.

The part of the nib that actually touches the paper is generally the same anyway. Most fountain pen nibs are tipped with iridium balls at the end of each tine because they wear better than steel or gold so the actual part of the nib that touches the paper is the same regardless of steel or gold.(Sure there are some really cheap – I mean REALLY cheap pens that don’t use iridium, they just use balls of steel, but that’s highly unusual.)

There’s a difference you can feel when it comes to a slight flex in the nib as you write. The gold is more pliable so it has more “give” as you write where steel tends to be nail hard and doesn’t give at all.

Another consideration is cost.

You wouldn’t buy your sixteen-year-old a Hennessey Venom Spyder, even if you had a cool million laying around for your kid’s first car right? Okay THAT was an overstatement, but you get my drift…

Whatever your interest, you start low, build experience, then branch out into more expensive versions as you determine what parts you appreciate and are willing to invest in.

Now before you fire off hate mail, yes, I’m aware you can have stainless nibs reground and adjusted to write more desirably, but who would do that for a cheap fountain pen?

I’m a proponent of a pen writing well out of the box.

What you do to the nib after that should be dependent on your preferences, not because it was sub-standard from the manufacturer.

Gold is more pliable so it has more “give” as you write where steel tends to be nail hard


I’ve used many fountain pens, and there are steel nibs that rival gold in terms of smoothness, but it’s hard for me to think of a steel nib that’s come close to a good gold nib in writing experience. I don’t use a ton of pressure when I write, but enough that I like a little give. Steel just doesn’t do that for me, but gold nibs do.

That being said, there are some beautiful and expensive fountains out there with steel nibs, but when you’re paying four times or more the price of an entry level pen, don’t you wonder why they didn’t engineer a gold nib?

Steel can be smooth, it just doesn’t give. Nail hard.  Unless you’re specifically buying a flex pen which is engineered with alloys to allow extreme flex with pressure (like the Namiki Falcon).

Some people prefer nail nibs, I can see how you could appreciate utmost control and ensure every drop of ink ends up exactly where you want it with no flex, no line variation and no surprises.  Also, if you tend to write extremely hard, a lot of pressure on the nib, you may appreciate steel more so it doesn’t flex.

The great debate… steel versus gold. It’s a personal one… Check out my Top 5 article, the gold ranks better.

Thank you for visiting, your readership is a constant gift and I hope you start your pen collection today; you’ll love them as much as I do! (Don’t forget to check out my pages on Journals & Inks.)