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Recently, I realized I’m what you might call a pen nerd. It started off innocuously enough — as a kid, I had a penchant for gel pens. That turned into a love for multicolored Pilot G2 pens and a large collection of Sharpie markers, and then a more open-minded love of good pens.
I hadn’t given my nerdiness much thought until my mom bought me a Lamy fountain pen (this one, to be specific) and I realized I was in deep. Oh, and one time I went to a pen show (literally like an antique fair except with just pens), so there’s that.
I’m also a long-term notebook snob and one of the newly-converted masses singing the praises of planners, so naturally, I love Erin Condren and I was certain I would love Erin Condren pens.
I don’t remember when I first saw the Gemtone rollerball pens, but I do remember saving them immediately to my “Love It” list so that I would be sure to include them with my next order (gotta combine shipping!). Then, my moment came. Last week, we ordered an Erin Condren planner to review (just wait you guys! It’s coming soon) so I was able to toss the pens in the “bag” with it and get the long-anticipated pens in my hands.
I might have over-hyped them. I mean, really, what pens could live up to expectations like that?
That said, while they were not the amazing-wonderful-pinnacle of all things pen that I wanted them to be, I plan to use them until they run out of ink (or until I find someone to re-gift them to).
First things first: how did they write? The pens are rollerball pens, which means they use a water-based ink (and other stuff, in case there are some true nerds among us). Basically, rollerball pens deliver a smoother, darker line than ballpoint — or at least they’re supposed to. The gemtone pens deliver a great depth of color, but they lack the smooth consistency that I really look for in a pen. The orchid, in particular, will sort of “skip” while I’m writing, leaving a pale, half-drawn line in the middle of a word.
Although I strongly prefer rollerball pens to ballpoint, rollerball pens are more likely to smear and smudge. If you only use the Erin Condren pens on Erin Condren products, this won’t be a problem because the pages are matte. On glossier pages, like what we saw in the Plum Paper planner we reviewed, this is going to be a problem.
While they don’t smear on Erin Condren products, they do bleed through. Not in a devastating, early-days-of-Sharpie-pen-way where you can rip right through the page, but just enough that you can definitely see the ink on the other side of the page. Since we’re still in legible territory, this isn’t a total deal-breaker, but it’s not ideal either.
Another detail worth noting is that the pens only come in 0.5 mm tips. I didn’t realize they had such a fine point until we pulled them out of the box when they were delivered. For me, this was a pleasant “bonus.” I’m okay with 0.7 mm pens, but I really prefer 0.5 mm. For some of my co-workers, the fine tip would be a dealbreaker. They say they’re “scratchy.” I say they’re precise.
As you’d expect from Erin Condren, these pens are cute. “Gemtone” says it all. These come as a set of six, including magenta, orchid, teal, navy, jade, and black. That’s enough variety to accomplish some heavy-duty color-coding. I like colored pens, but don’t have any real use for a bright red grading-style pen or a free-from-my-bank-blue pen. And, in general, I just really like darker, richer colors. If that’s your style, these are your colors.
Bonus? The colors coordinate, so you won’t have to deal with clashing ink colors, which is just the worst. (Oh, what’s that? That doesn’t bother anyone else? Just me? Okay.)
The pens are well-packaged in a plastic storage case. This would be great for travel, or just for throwing a set of pens in your purse or computer bag in a hurry. Or even if you just really like everything to be in a box. You do you. I personally prefer my pens to be easily accessible instead of packed away in a case, so mine are on my desk in my pen cup.
Beyond cute though, they’re not really anything special. The pens look really similar to the Uni-ball Eco pen, they have a plain barrel and matching cap with a matte, rubberized sort of finish — except they look kind of like a cheap knock-off of a Uni-ball Eco pen that costs twice as much. They have a plastic clip on the cap instead of a metal, they’re a little thinner around so they don’t feel as solid, and the grip on the Erin Condren pen is just a little too slick to be comfortable to hold.
I probably won’t buy these for myself again, but for a friend who says things like “a pen is just a pen,” a die-hard Erin Condren lover, or even just someone who likes pens with cute inspirational words on them, these would be a great gift.
Even though I wouldn’t buy them again (because, as I’ve said, I’m a pen snob), they do look great on my desk and they look even better in pictures — your Instagram followers will love them. The pen quality just isn’t high enough to justify paying $2/pen + shipping for them when I can find pens for the same price that write much better (I’m all about some Pentel Energel pens). The long and the short of it? If you’re in it for the cute factor, order away, but don’t hate me when you have to go back over a word you just wrote every now and then.