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Diplomat's Optimist Rhombus Fountain Pen

Hillary at Diplomat Pens was kind enough to send me this fountain pen for review on my blog. It was unsolicited, and that's really kind of her. I hope I can do this again for them in the future, as Diplomat makes good pens that most people don't hear about.

This isn't my first Diplomat pen. I reviewed my wife's Traveller a while back, and my mom liked the review so much that she bought one. Then she bought another. That pen was too small for my hands, but I really liked the fine nib. The Optimist is definitely more of a man-sized pen, and it's a classy one, at that.


The Diplomat Optimist comes in some nice packaging. Cardboard box, metal case with another cardboard case. Not bad at all. This is a box that might go on the shelf.

This is the metal box. 

The Look and Materials

This is a brass-body pen with a black-lacquer overlay and a Rhombus design. I capitalized "Rhombus" because it doesn't really look like a rhombus to me. It's a nice black and silver cross-hatch, but I don't see the rhombus in it. (Maybe my math-teacher-sister will correct me.) This Rhombus design is broken by a sliver ring that separates the section from the barrel. This breaks up the design, and I'm not entirely sure why it's there. In fact, I just put the pen together without the ring, and I think it looks a bit better. I wonder if it serves some purpose that I'm missing?
The Optimist with the center ring.

This is the ring, and that's how you'll lose it. 

The Optimist sans center ring. 

This is certainly a pen that you can take to a meeting with you. It's office-classy, but not boring.

The finial of the pen is the classic Diplomat logo on a white background. I like this detail because it ties the line together. Mont Blanc has the snowflake, Sheaffer has the dot, and Diplomat has the flower. A good emblem is the sort of thing that lets you have an understated design that remains recognizable.

The clip is also distinctive. It's the same sort of clip that is found on most of their pens. Like the Traveller, the clip on this pen is really stiff. I don't think it's going to loosen up, but it'll fit over a shirt pocket. It's too tight to fit over a jeans-pocket, though. It doesn't feel flimsy,and I've no fear of it breaking.

The section is plastic, though, and that's a mistake, I think. It feels a bit cheap on a pen this nice. It's not a bad section, and I don't feel like it's going to slip in my fingers (though it lacks any texture). It just feels like it should be on a cheaper pen. This pen isn't cheap, and buffing up this section would go a long way towards making the pen feel solid and rich.

The Fit and Finish

This is a nicely made pen. The barrel is solid, but fairly light for a metal barrel. The finials aren't going to come off, and I don't worry about the clip. The lacquer is smooth and glossy. It doesn't feel like the sort that will be scraped off by posting the pen, either. In fact, I usually post it and there's not so much as a scratch to show for it.

The cap is not threaded, so this pen is going to live in a pocket and not on a placket. It snaps on securely, but I'm one of those people who are paranoid about the pen falling out of the cap and ruining a shirt or being lost for ever. This isn't a complaint. There are plenty of people out there (my wife, for one) who really don't like screw-on caps because they're fiddly to get on and off when you're writing sporadically.

Inside the cap.

Inside the barrel.

There are a couple of quibbles in this category, though. First, the bottom edge of the cap feels a little rough. It's not finished at the edge, and there's no banding down there to make the transition smoother. The other problem is the ring at the center of the body. It's loose, and not connected to either the section or barrel. It looks fine, but it falls off every time you unscrew the section and it will be lost at some point. I think that both of these problems could be fixed by removing the ring from the body of the pen and adding the ring to the bottom of the cap. That way, you could still see the ring and it would make the edge of the cap smoother. Or, they could just get rid of the ring and make the cap cover the section-break. That would look smoother, I think.

The Nib

This isn't the nib that came with the pen, but I'll tell that story later on.

 The design of the nib is the same as the other nibs that I've seen from Diplomat. The flower is there, as well as the company and a nib size. Not to complicated.

The bottom of the feed is a bit boring, and there's no breather hole. I think I prefer the finned-look of most other fountain pens, but how often does one look at the bottom of the feed, anyway?

The fine nib on this pen is really nice. It's kind of semi-soft, like the fine nib on Audrey's Traveller. The medium isn't soft at all, but the fine has some spring in it. If you can get a fine nib in a Diplomat, I encourage you to do that. One caveat, though, is that the Diplomat fine nib is more like a medium width. I've got it paired with Aurora Black right now, and that ink is particularly wet, so that might be part of the "issue." I don't see it as a problem, but it's something for a buyer to keep in mind. They run a bit wider than some other Western nibs that I've used.

 I made a video of myself writing the hashes and squiggles above, and here's a link. I warn you, this paper is the loudest paper around. I didn't realize that until I made the video.

Here are a few different nibs that I had on the desk, and they mostly look a bit alike until you get close to them. The Diplomat fine definitely looks a bit wider than

Diplomat on top, Lamy on bottom. Pretty close, right? Still, I think the Lamy is more fine. 
 The following are my thoughts after using the pen for a few days. I wrote this with the original nib, which was a medium. I didn't love it.

The nib that this pen came with was a medium, and it wasn't good. It's hard to describe what was wrong with it. The nib was alternately wet and dry, and it would change within the same word. It was weird. It was also a little rough. I was trying different inks in it and using different papers, and all sorts of things. It just wasn't working out. When I told Hillary about this, she had a fine nib sent out to me, and it was in my mailbox in a couple of days.

Then there's the fine nib. It's head-and-shoulders better than the medium was.

Final Thoughts

This pen doesn't come with a converter, and that's a surprise to me. At the $135 price-point I expect that there should be a converter. I wish that this pen was a bit less expensive. I like the pen (now that it has a good nib), but there are so many other pens available in that price range. It's such a big field of pens at that level, and I'm not sure that this pen has what it takes to compete. It looks cool, it's metal, and it writes really well. It's also a c/c pen with a steel nib that doesn't come with a converter. On the plus side, it is backed by excellent customer service, and the construction and finish are solid. You'll also like the fine nib, as long as you expect it to be a bit broader than average.

Go over to the site and check out the line. There are some really cool pens over there. I'm especially drawn to the Balance and the Aero, but I really like the unusual looks of those pens.

Check out the video review if you'd like to see this pen in action and hear me talk about it while manipulating it with one hand. I gotta get a tripod or something.

Thanks again to Hillary at Diplomat Pens for sending me this pen to review. The pen was sent to me free-of-charge, but the review reflects only my own experiences and impressions.
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