Yore Write!

The Little Red Pencil

This was not the first pencil in my collection; nor is it the oldest, the most valuable, the rarest, or the most interesting. But like many of the things that we humans collect, it is the story behind the little red pencil that makes it special to me, and the focus of my first blog entry.

My grandmother once owned this pencil, but exactly how it came into her possession we’ll never know. She was likely only a small child when it was made (she was born in England in 1898) so it may have even belonged to her mother, or perhaps it was purchased while she was still a young woman.

The entire pencil is a mere 1 1/8″ long when closed and in its casing. Fully extended it doubles in length, to a whopping 2.25″.

The outside casing is finished in a red guilloché enamel while the pencil itself and the casing trim are plated rose gold. This “pleasing to the eye” effect is achieved by first engraving a repeating pattern into the barrel (think Spirograph) and then covering it with a transparent red enamel. Guilloché enamelled items were very popular at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. High end jewellers including Fabergé, Cartier, and Tiffany, all sold a wide variety of guilloché enamel items, although it is probably the famous Fabergé eggs that first come to mind. Many other manufacturers created items in the same style and pencil makers were no exception. One only needs to google “guilloche enamel pencil image” to realize the broad range of designs and colours that were created and offered for sale to the buying public.

There is no maker’s name or marking on the pencil, but items like it would likely have been sold in mid-range jewellery stores. The rose gold plating on this one is showing signs of significant wear, but the enamelling is near perfect, and the pencil mechanism is fully functional. The pencil automatically extends as it is withdrawn from the casing, and the lead advance works fine. During the time that Grandma wore this pencil she had it suspended from a small gold chain around her neck. It was a piece of jewellery with a purpose and its current condition shows that it was used, and enjoyed, and not hidden away in a drawer only to be brought out on special occasions.

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