Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ink Review: J. Herbin 1670 Ink

Red was your colour.
If not red, then white. But red
Was what you wrapped around you.
Blood-red. Was it blood?
Was it red-ochre, for warming the dead?
Haematite to make immortal
The precious heirloom bones, the family bones.

- Ted Hughes, 'Red'

Karen Doherty, Exaclair's Marketing VP, surprised me with a box last September. It was completely unexpected, and I jumped like a little kid when I saw the 1670 Anniversary ink, a large Rhodia dotPad, and an anise green blank Habana inside the box all swathed in seemingly endless piece of bubble wrap. I felt very lucky to receive a bottle of this ink because it is a limited edition ink, released early this year to specifically commemorate J. Herbin's 340th founding anniversary.

The J. Herbin Anniversary ink is named 1670 after the year the company was founded. It is also called Rouge Hematite for its color, taken after the mineral hematite (blood ore), which is also the Greek word for blood.

I like the unique design and packaging of this ink. Unlike the other J. Herbin inks, the 1670 Anniversary ink arrived in a new bottle inside a new box. The 1670 comes in square 50ml bottles, with 1670 simply embossed on gold wax to tell its name.

The 1670 Anniversary ink's clear square bottle reminds me a lot of Caran d'Ache ink bottles, but the gold string on the bottle's neck caught under the gold sealing wax (which Stephanie of Biffybeans blog wrote as glue gun wax) adds a touch of elegance into its simplicity.

The gold wax on the bottle, according to the J. Herbin website, is "reminiscent of the wax used for the 'grand cru' wines of France," and all gold wax seals on all 1670 ink bottles are handmade. has a video of this process and it's amusing to see how it's being done: the person assigned to this task puts the gold string on the bottle's neck, pumps the glue gun wax onto the gold string and the bottle, stamps the 1670 on the glue gun wax, cuts the gold string to desired length, and does the whole process again. Cool!

The red wax on the ink bottle's cap is made of official wax cherry, and strongly reminds me of the wax used in cheeses, especially the big queso de bola (Edam cheese) we see in supermarkets around Christmas time here, and get either as gifts from friends or as part of our Christmas grocery package. According to the inital set of reviews, the red wax used for the earlier batch of inks was brittle and crumbled easily, but I received a newer version with a more flexible wax. But all the same, I am very careful when I cap and uncap the bottle. I don't want to destroy the beauty of this ink yet. 

This ink's bottle cap is made of aluminum, and I wished they used the usual hard plastic caps. Then again, wax may not stick to the plastic very well, and so they decided to use aluminum.

The 1670's box is another J. Herbin work of wonder. It has been carefully designed to represent the life of J. Herbin, who was a sailor. The ship, anchor and palm tree represent navigation and discovery; while the crown is a reference to the red sealing wax color used in the royal courts of Europe.


Rouge Hematite is a unique ink color in the red/orange/brown range, which is my favorite. It has an intense, vibrant, earthy and blood-red color that is reminiscent of the historical J. Herbin logo and the sealing wax used in the royal courts of previous eras.
The 1670 ink has the same qualities of J. Herbin inks I have tried in the past. It has smooth flow, good lubrication, shading and of course, excellent color. However, it is very, very saturated compared to other J. Herbin inks.

For a larger photo click here.

I used a Rotring ArtPen with 1.5 italic nib for the calligraphy, and my white Schneider Base with a firm medium nib for my written review. The grid notebook is from Saizen, which took the inking very well. There is no feathering and bleed for both of the pens I used. Notice the difference in color and shading for the two pens.

The poem I wrote using the 1.5 italic nib looks a brighter red, with more evident orange hues.

The text I wrote using the medium nib looks a darker red, though.


And now here are some macro shots. I hope the images below captured the gold in the letters I wrote, especially where more ink was placed on paper.  

Below is the 1670 ink in comparison with other red inks: Diamine Poppy Red (dries a bright red), Camel Scarlet Red (dries a pinkish red), Parker Super Quink Red (dries a pale red), J. Herbin Rouge Opera (not a true red, but dries a beautiful rose red), and Diamine Oxblood (a dark, dark blood-red color). The 1670 ink is the stand-out color in the group, its reddish somewhat brownish-earthy-golden color is a winner!

I mentioned earlier that the 1670 ink is a highly saturated ink. This may be a problem among left-hand writers because this property makes it such a slow-drying ink. I used the Base pen on Rhodia paper for this test, and though several factors may have contributed to drying time, the 1670 is undeniably a slow-drying ink to be 'almost dry' at 1 minute 30 seconds.

I tried writing with the 1670 ink on different papers from several notebooks I got. Below are several pictures of them.

I am so in love with this ink I have been using it on three different pens since I got it. I love the color, shading and the tiny gold flecks I see when I look closely at the dried ink on paper. But this is a limited edition ink, said to be produced only this year, and I hope that J. Herbin will include this ink into their regular production.

Aside from the 1670 Anniversary ink, J. Herbin also offers 30 more inks in beautiful colors. These water-based inks are non-toxic, have neutral pH and manufactured using natural dyes. Dowload a printable PDF of the J. Herbin fountain pen ink swatches here.

A 50ml bottle of the 1670 Anniversary ink sells for US$20 at the Goulet Pen Company, and will soon be available at Scribe Writing Essentials here in the Philippines. (I have no affiliation with either companies, though.)

The 1670 Anniversary ink used in this review is courtesy of Exaclair, Inc. through Karen Doherty, as well as the Rhodia pad. Daycraft notebook courtesy of Foreal Lee of Daycraft, and Reecovid notepad courtesy of Ingrid Savill of Reecovid. The Pukka notebook and two pens used in this review all belong to my personal collection.


  1. Great review!! Lovely writing as usual. Nice to see you again.

  2. Thanks Julie! Hope to make it more often this time. :)

  3. Wonderful review and great pictures. Love the writing samples too! It's certainly a very nice ink color.

  4. Glad to see the gold flecks in the 1670 up close in real life! As always, a great review :)

  5. Great write up. I like the amount of brown in it. From your review and pictures it seems that this J. Herbin ink doesn't share the same qualities of the other J. Herbin inks that I have had tried. Again, great write up.

  6. I love the colour of this ink, and I keep seeing it pop up in reviews. I must find some!

    Also, as ever I love your handwriting! And that Ted Hughes poem - good choice!

  7. Anonymous11:17 PM

    Love the review! Great pictures and lovely handwriting.

    Just a slight typo I think, the ink lists at $20 at Goulet not $30.

  8. Thanks for correcting me! It is $20, and not $30 as I have written.

  9. Great review! I love this ink too, and the gold is a wonderful aspect of it I think. ^_^ Like you, I had in in three pens at the same time :D

  10. Was it available at any point here in the Philippines? Never saw it in Scribe. The subtle gold on the ink looks so nice! I'm envious! :)

    1. bentoboxboy: Yes, Scribe sold this ink when it was introduced to the market.