A sub category of the valuable pens is the filigreed pen. These were made from around 1897 onwards, initially by Watermans predominantly. The early filigree pens were made out of fine silver (marked FINE SILVER 999 1000).
Generally the silver was so soft that they did not wear well.
The original designs were whirling lines in period style but without any particular form. After a few years the lines incorporated within them floral patterns. Curlicues were also found in the early pens, although these pens are very rare.
After about 1910 the designs standardised around a pattern resembling a paisley design and (later) a pattern resembling sheafs of bamboo.
Non Watermans designs (Parker, Conklin), tended to have either a three leaf floral or four leaf floral design.
The rarer pens are those found in Sheaffer or Moore patterns and resemble highly stylised and beautiful art nouveau swirls.
Filigree designs started to peter out at the end of the twenties when mass production techniques dictated that it was no longer cost-effective to produce them. The overlay had to be put in position by hand with careful heating of the metalwork. This production technique does not lend itself to mass production.
Thus although filigree pens were made in the thirties (specifically the Watermans 'Night and Day' pattern in 452 or 454 size and a fine pattern resembling rabbit ears or marihuana leaves usually found in a 494 size), they are relatively rare.
The most desirable filigree pens are the exceptionally rare Mont Blanc filigrees either in spider, electric ray, or an art deco pattern and the Watermans or Parker filigrees which were mounted over red hard rubber.
Unfortunately fakes abound; furthermore, when the pens were new, it was not uncommon to have jewellers mount filigree work to the pens when they were originally ordered. In addition to this factor, the pen companies themselves would often either send out pens for the art-work or buy in filigree work from
Careful checking is necessary to see whether the pen started out life as a filigree (the number of a Watermans pen should always say (e.g.) 452 to reflect each part of the companies' pen numbering identification system. If a filigree has been mounted over an ordinary red pen, the number will be 52, denoting that the pen did not start out as a filigree (although infuriatingly, oversea Watermans subsidiaries often used merely the number of the basic pen which they either manufactured or imported from the parent company in America. Italian Waternams 18KR (rolled gold) safety pens always had two digits on the twist-knob (either 42 or 44) and english metal pens often came in different configurations (of the same size) which were invariably numbered 52.
Check also that there is no chasing, engine turning or inscription of any type under the filigree. Pen companies would not have had any reason to mount filigree work over a pen which has been finished off by engraving anything on the barrel.