Montblanc High Artistry Homage To Emperor Kangxi: Honoring Chinese History
by Martin Green
Over the years, Montblanc has become very successful in a wide variety of fields, most recently watches and fine leather goods. Yet at heart, this is still a manufacturer of fountain pens.
While the regular Montblanc collection already proves that it is one of the best in this field, the High Artistry pens make the case that there is much, much more to this maker.
Combining various métiers d’arts with the extensive use of gemstones and precious metals serves as a tangible souvenir of a time and age when the wealthy rulers of the world were able to commission pieces of such extraordinary beauty.
Montblanc dedicates the different pieces in this collection to those who have shaped the history of the world, in this case Kangxi (1654–1722), who served as the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty.
A Montblanc fit for an emperor
During his reign, which was the longest of all Chinese emperors, he was known for his military decisiveness and cultural enlightenment leading to an age of prosperity and stability in the Middle Kingdom.
A central symbol of the emperor’s power was the dragon, which is also the main source of inspiration for the three unique-piece pens that make up the Montblanc High Artistry Homage to Emperor Kangxi limited editions.
The first one, called the Imperial Dragon, seems to be fit for an emperor who yields almost divine power over all that is within his empire. The body and cap are crafted in “champagne”-hued gold, while the dragon itself is made of segments of white jade with diamond accent stones against a backdrop of a nearly seamless pavé setting of yellow diamonds.
The head of the dragon forms the origin of the clip (which is naturally topped off by a pearl of wisdom) that impresses with its eyes. Thanks to an inventive mechanical device, these eyes move: they are closed while the pen is in a horizontal position and open when the owner writes with it.
As if this were not enough imposing elements, the top of the barrel is set with a mechanism that allows a 6.42-carat emerald-cut vivid yellow-orange diamond to rotate freely. This precious stone can also be detached from the pen and admired all on its own.
The same mechanism can also be found in the other two unique-piece editions of this homage to Emperor Kangxi, however with different stones.
The Royal Blue Dragon’s barrel is made of white gold set with colorless diamonds; the dragon flies through a deep blue sky represented by a pavé setting of blue sapphires.
Here the pivoting mechanism holds a five-carat diamond of great rarity, as it flawless with a D color grading (see Detailed Primer On Gemstones And Their Appreciation: An Introduction To The Finer Things for more on grading).
The final pen of this trio, the Jade Dragon, is perhaps the most traditional in its combination of colors, with a “champagne” gold barrel and cap.
The dragon’s scales are represented by pieces of green jade, while the clouds through which it flies are made out of colorless brilliant-cut diamonds. This pen is crowned by a 5.08-carat ruby with a deep red color.
The pens’ clips are set with natural pearls, and each features an 18-karat gold nib engraved with a dragon.
The limited editions for more mortals: The Emperor
While the limited editions described above reign supreme in the Kangxi collection, as only one of each have been made, Montblanc has also made five pieces of a fountain pen called The Emperor.
Here the cap and body show the land over which the emperor ruled outlined by threads of gold (called cloisonné) and filled in with enamel in subtle hues of yellow, green, and sandy colors. This motif takes its inspiration from the many paintings Emperor Kangxi commissioned of landscapes that he saw during his grand southern inspection tour.
This limited edition also has a secret: the top of the cap hides a miniature gold sundial. The emperor was fascinated by these devices brought to him from Europe.
This pen also features yellow and colorless diamonds, but more as accent stones (except, of course, the larger example set into the tip of the barrel).
The pen’s barrel decoration is topped off with an artistic engraving of a dragon in gold. The fictitious animal really comes to life as there is a lot of depth incorporated in its design.
A pen for writing, not for fighting
Montblanc completes this collection of limited editions with two more pens that each represent Kangxi as a general and a lover of the arts.
The latter, limited to 10 pieces, features a cap made of black jade. On this, as well as the fountain pen’s barrel, we find a poem carved into the material. This is not the only reference to the noble art of writing as there are also secret engravings in the cap representing calligraphy by Kangxi himself as a tribute to one of his favorite poems by Tao Yuanming.
A tiger’s head, discernible from a large mass of yellow sapphires interspersed with rhodium-coated gold calligraphic characters, serves as a reminder of the emperor’s favorite animal to hunt. Despite its striking appearance, I find it a bit of an odd addition to a fountain pen dedicated to depicting a ruler’s love of the arts and one that Montblanc named The Calligrapher.
The most subdued of the limited editions in terms of design is the 89-piece limited edition fountain pen that references Kangxi’s function as a general whose yellow gold cap and barrel are finished in the same riveted pattern as the emperor’s ceremonial armor.
The pattern is further accentuated by the fittings coated with black PVD. The rest of the barrel is made of birchwood, which was used during the reign of the emperor for making bows.
Lasered in are lotus plants, which symbolize longevity. Montblanc used special ultraviolet technology allowing the wood to maintain its natural appearance over the years.
No precious gemstones can be found on this fountain pen, although the barrel features a ring made of semiprecious tiger’s eye, while the base is set with a yellow citrine.
Combined, all these limited-edition pens represent the different sides that made Kangxi such an effective and powerful leader. At the same time, they once more underscore Montblanc’s deserved reputation as one of the leading fountain pen manufacturers.
For more information, please visit www.montblanc.com.
Quick Facts Montblanc High Artistry Homage to Emperor Kangxi Limited Editions
Edition: fountain pens
Nib: 18-karat gold
Cap and barrel: depending on limited edition, 18-karat yellow, “champagne,” or white gold, cloisonné enamel, birchwood or black jade; various (semi-) precious gemstones
Limitation: 1, 5, 10, and 89 pieces depending on limited edition>
Price: on request
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