What is a fountain pen nib?
Why are they often solid gold? And what is the difference between 14k, 18k, and 21k nibs?
A fountain pen nib is the metal writing point at the end of the writing instrument. Virtually all quality fountain pens use solid gold nibs, both for their durability and for the smoothness of the writing experience they provide. Cheaper steel and gold-plated nibs, on the other hand, have a tendency to deteriorate and are harder to customize or repair, whereas a solid gold nib can last a lifetime (and more).
So while the choice of a solid gold nib has more to do with performance and durability than snobbery, the differences between solid gold nibs of different carat counts tend to be subtle. In fact, 14k nibs are often the most prized, as they are both more resilient than softer 18k and 21k nibs, as well as being better suited to some customizations, such as the modification for added flex.
Even most experienced fountain pen users usually report not being able to notice the difference between 14k, 18k, and 21k nibs once they have been properly tuned and optimized for the preferences of the individual writer. See also our examination of the differences between hard, soft, and flexible nibs.