Arts December 27, 2023

The Pen and the Sword

Hand-crafted weapons that compliment more than compete

For an item meant to last the test of time, it only makes sense that David Oscarson draws inspiration from history for his intricate pens and knives. Creating these pens begins when pure sterling silver is bored out of their workshop in London. Using a guilloché technique dating back to the Russian Empire, the patterns for each individual collection are not cast or struck with a die. Instead, a centuries-old machine makes diamond-cut precision cuts, similar to the detailed watch dials made by Cartier in the late 1800s and early 1900s.    

Each block of silver is hand-turned to begin engraving the pen’s design. The delicate, silver lines separating each color are meticulously cut into unique patterns. For example, in Oscarson’s “Winter” Collection, each pattern of ice and frost is carved in separate layers. Then, the colored inlays are created with a hot enamel. This isn’t an epoxy, resin, or glue. Its crushed glass is purified and made into a paste with powdered metal. The workers pat the crushed glass and metal into the engravings on the silver using a quill. The pieces are then fired three times through a kiln to create the optimal color and consistency for each color.    

The gauge of silver also needs to be substantial to successfully melt and fuse with the glass. For jewelry aficionados, this is referred to as hot enamel over guilloché or kiln-fired glass over diamond-cut silver. This process is incredibly unique and time-consuming, resulting in vibrant colors and a product that is cool to the touch. Pens come in two varieties—fountain pens with an 18-karat gold nib or rollerball-style pens.  

The six collections of Oscarsons’s knives complement the fountain pens. Where most knives feature the blade, Oscarson focuses more on the knife’s hilt. The left and right sides (referred to as the scales) are cut from sterling silver, using the same technique on the inside and outside. The knives are forged using Swedish Stainless (Damasteel DS93X) Damascus. This means the metal starts as a powder and is made with guilloché work and hot enamel. Both the knives and pens come in a wooden box inlaid with velvet. You can’t take them to a local repairman either—if the pen or knife needs new enamel or a small mend, they must be sent back to the factory in London. Repairs are included, as well as a lifetime warranty, as these instruments are made to last for hundreds of years, much like their predecessors that now sit in museums all over the world.    

Oscarson draws inspiration from themes, people, historical events, and childhood bedtime stories. Each collection is a limited edition, intentionally chosen and produced. Their Alfred Nobel collection has 86 pieces for Nobel’s 86 years of life. Their original collection honoring Henrik Wigström is an homage to the beautiful fabergé eggs of the Romonav Family as he worked under Peter Carl Fabergé from 1903 to 1918 to create pieces that stand the test of time. These pens and knives are available at the Naifeh Gallery in Ketchum. Part of what drew Naifeh to Oscarson’s products is the collection named “Celestial,” featuring an engraved sun that mirrors the famous Sun Valley logo, as well as their Winter collection for collectors that are also lovers of the mountains.    

David Oscarson’s background in the jewelry industry means that the writing instruments can be more compared to a luxury watch or ring as opposed to your standard fountain pen. For pen collectors and appreciators of fine jewelry alike, the unparalleled quality of these knives and pens means that the owner can enjoy a one-of-a-kind piece of art for generations. Oscarson quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as saying, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”  

These items are not just well made but a portion of a larger message that giving oneself to a craft results in a meaningful life and fulfilled work. As for the question of the pen or the sword, the mightiest power of all is a life lived intentionally. To see these incredible, unique pieces, wander down to Naifeh Gallery in Ketchum, where Oscarson’s pens and knives are displayed.

This article appears in the Winter 2023-2024 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.