Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Comparative Review

Last year I wrote about my Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 and followed it up with an update. It’s one of my favorite pens, so when the Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Magma was announced, I snapped one up.

Now that my Magma is back in action, I’m writing a comparative review of the two. I couldn’t find anything about the Rainbow when it first came out, and there doesn’t seem to be anything about the Magma, so hopefully, this will help anyone considering purchasing either of them.

Backstories

If you know the history behind these two pens in my collection, feel free to skip down to the main review.

Rainbow Prisma 88

Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88

I bought myself the Rainbow after seeing a gorgeous photo on the Goulet Pen Company’s Instagram as a reward to myself for finally getting my driver’s license (I’d been terrified of driving for many years). Thanks to the fantastic customer service at the Goulet Pen Company (and a significant amount of luck), I got pen #19. If you want to read a more detailed backstory, you can find it here. Initially, I had a little trouble with the pen (check out my YouTube review for more info), but after having the nib adjusted to increase ink flow, it’s been lovely.

Prisma 88 Magma

Stipula Etruria Prisma 88 Magma

I first saw the Magma in the Goulet Pen Co. weekly newsletter. The photos on their website were fantastic, as they always are, and convinced me I wanted one. Bertram’s Inkwell got the Magma in first, so I picked one up (that was May 5th).

As I wrote with it, I realized the nib needed an adjustment (like the Rainbow). Jim took a look at it with his loupe (My bad eyesight/glasses mean I can’t really use one) and said the tipping material was kind of pitted. I took it back to Bert’s and turns out the other one he received had a bad nib as well.

Bert took care of sending out the nib for a replacement (that was May 26th). I BELIEVE he sent it to Yafa since they’re the US Stipula distributor. The replacement nib finally arrived around August 3rd. I’m not certain of the exact date, because Bert told me they’d arrived when he saw me at the pen show. But regardless, that’s a heck of a wait.

Oddly, the nib that came back is a 14k gold, non-flex nib. I understand it’s technically an upgrade, but I’ve got mixed feelings about it. While I have to admit the gold nib has much less feedback, I have an order in through Bertram’s Inkwell to get a new gold-colored T-flex nib. I really just want the nib that the pen is supposed to have.

Side Note: I’ve heard from a few different sources that the nib on the Magma had problems, so I’m willing to bet that the entire run of 183 had problems. I asked Brian and Rachel Goulet about their delay in stocking the Magma in one of their recent Instagram live videos, and they mentioned that they sent the pens they received back to Stipula. Apparently, while the new nibs have been created and tipped with proper material, Stipula is waiting on the person who does the gold plating to return from vacation to finish the new nibs. I’m guessing this may be part of the reason why I was sent a 14k gold nib instead.

Review

I’ll start with a few things that apply to both pens.

Price: These are expensive pens. They sell for just under $500, with an MSRP of $595. Granted, they’re beautiful, but that’s still a pricey pen.

Flaws: The biggest flaw on these pens is that the various segments of the pen don’t line up. The two sections on the cap are misaligned on both pens. The bodies don’t automatically line up with the cap. You can make them align, but it takes some effort. The pistons don’t align with the bodies, either. In my opinion, while these are small details, for a pen this expensive, they are details that should be addressed.

Close up images of the misaligned color sections

Weight: The pens are weighty at 38g overall, 25g uncapped. The extra weight makes them feel expensive, which is nice. Of those who have tried out my Rainbow and Magma, those with larger hands have preferred to write with them posted, while I, and those with smaller hands, prefer to write with them unposted.

Grip: The grip section on these pens feel nice in my hand. They’re very comfortable to use.

Rainbow

The Rainbow is simply a stunning pen. It photographs well and it presents well in person. Beyond the emotional attachment I have to the pen, it’s a jewel in my collection. I have no regrets about purchasing it.

Because most of the colors are darker, you don’t notice if the nib spits into the cap a bit, nor do I worry about the body getting ink-stained over time. Even if it happens, you won’t notice it. I very much appreciate that aspect of the pen, because I’m rather fastidious when it comes to the cleanliness of my pen collection.

While I know that titanium nibs are polarizing, I rather enjoy mine. It has a bit more feedback than I typically like, but it’s just part of the experience of using the Rainbow. Everything else about it is different, the nib might as well be, too.

After using Regalia Writing Labs’ Semiflex, the flex of the T-flex nib certainly can’t compare. I’d say it’s really more of a soft nib than a flexible nib. This doesn’t bother me, though, as I don’t typically utilize the flex in my regular writing.

Other than the misaligned sections mentioned above, I don’t really have any complaints about the pen. Stipula did a great job with the Rainbow.

Magma

Let me start by saying I like the Magma. Unfortunately, while it is still a pretty pen, it isn’t quite the stunner that the Rainbow is. I realize that this next bit is going to seem harsh, but I’m judging it as the nearly $600 MSRP pen it is.

There are some imperfections in the construction of my pen that take away from the beauty it has:

  • There are areas with visible glue-like substance.
  • There are a couple of inclusions, for lack of a better word, in the resin.
  • There is something odd on the gray washer-like ring in the end cap of the pen. It almost looks like there is some overlapping metal.
  • The end cap is not perfectly aligned with the body of the pen. It’s a very minor misalignment, but you can see it if you pay very close attention, and you can feel it, too.

Close up images of the problems with the Magma

Keep in mind, I can only speak to my pen, so it’s possible that these issues are specific to the pen I have.

I also have two things that, while not flaws, precisely, I would change about the pen if I could:

  1. The name/numbering disparity annoys me. I don’t understand why it’s called the Prisma 88 when 193 were made.
  2. The clear stripes make me worry that at some point the pen may get stained. I think having orange resin in place of the clear would have eliminated that worry and better suited the pen.

I feel it’s worth mentioning again that the nib had imperfect tipping material. I have no idea what kind of effect that would have had on writing over time, but if you pick up one of these pens, you probably want to have the tipping inspected.

When I first bought the pen, I wrote with the gold-plated titanium nib. It had less feedback than the “naked” titanium nib on the Rainbow. I didn’t pay very close attention to the writing quality, mainly because I didn’t realize I’d lose the nib very shortly thereafter.

The 14k gold nib I was sent is very smooth but is non-flex. I think it’s just shy of qualifying as a soft nib. You can get line variation if you push it but it distinctly feels as though you shouldn’t push it.

Final Thoughts

The Magma sadly falls short of its sister pen, the Rainbow. While the Rainbow feels like a pen that was well thought out and executed, the Magma feels rushed, perhaps to capitalize on the success of the Rainbow.

The Magma, when judged on its own, is a perfectly lovely pen. Were it less expensive, I wouldn’t judge it so harshly.

If you have the opportunity and ability to purchase the Rainbow, I’d certainly encourage you to do so. While I wouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing the Magma, I’d certainly advise them to scrutinize the pen before purchasing it.

Have you purchased either pen or are you considering doing so? If you have the Magma, does it have any of the issues mine does? Let me know in the comments.

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2 thoughts

  1. Rachel,

    Thank yo for this review. A pen of that price range should work perfect coming out of the box. QC and individual nib testing are in place for this category of pens, in my opinion.

    Also the miss alignments I don’t undertand. I bought cheaper pens that aligned perfectly, so it is possible to get that right.

    So I think I will pass on the Stipula pens.

    With warm regards

    Jan

    1. I definitely agree with you on the misalignment. I can deal with the nib dryness, as that’s personal preference, but the Magma’s nib problem is definitely a major issue to me. It never should have happened. I’m glad my review was of use to you. 😊

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