The Pelikan Stola III ($36) is probably the closest competitor Pelikan has to the Pilot Metropolitan or the Lamy Safari. If you’ve been looking for a professional, upscale looking fountain pen in the sub-$50 range, The Stola III is definitely a strong contender. However, there are some plusses and minuses to consider before hitting the “buy it now” button.
For me, a big plus is the beautifully clean simple design of the Stola III. Its a matte silver pen with a gloss black clip with Pelikan’s signature “beak” design. Its a sophisticated design that is both modern and classic. The body of the pen is metal on a brass base, not plastic, so it feels sturdy. The total weight of the pen, capped with a full long cartridge is 32 gms. Uncapped and unposted with a cartrdige, it weighs 20 gms.
The finish of the pen is a fine mica metallic silver with a clear gloss finish over the metallic paint. The pen itself is metal but there is definitely layers of paint and clear gloss over it, like a nice auto or motorcycle paint finish. The end cap and clip are flat black and glossy.
I’m including my weight chart which shows some other common models capped and filled.
In general, I am not much for pen packaging. I prefer that it be protective for shipping and storage purposes but it doesn’t need to be much more than that. The packaging for the Stola III falls right into that sweet spot. There was a white outer shipper box and then the inner matte silver paperboard box that reminded me of a book. When opened, the pen was tucked under a black, satin ribbon in a flocked, recessed area and stored in a clear, cellophane tube. I removed the cellophane for photography purposes and left the paper tag that is tucked under the clip.
Inside the pen was a long European cartridge in blue. In shipping, my cartridge ended up leaking. I suspect it was a result of the winter weather here in Kansas City which vacillated between freezing and a balmy 70 degrees fahrenheit this weekend so the seal probably split causing the leak. I swapped it out for a Pelikan Edelstein Topaz long cartridge instead. This is actually one of the reasons to put the Stola III in the plus column. It is a sub-$50 fountain pen that takes standard European cartridges or converters. Unlike the Pilot Metropolitan that takes either Pilot cartridges or a Pilot-specific converter or the Lamy Safari which also requires proprietary converters and cartridges.
The Stola III is only available with a medium nib which is steel. It is not the same nib that comes on the M-series pens. The Stola III nib is a much stiffer steel nib, not gold. Not for $36. The advantage is that the Stola III nib is much easier to use for new fountain pen writers as the nib is more forgiving at more angles than the M-series nibs. I myself have not had the best luck with the M-series nibs because, as a left hander, my upside down writing angle causes me to push rather than pull the nib which chokes the softer tines of the M-series pens making the writing stutter and start and stop. I did not have this problem with the Stola III. The Stola III wrote smoothly and had no false starts for me.
I was a bit concerned that the medium nib might be too wide for my small writing but it actually wrote quite nicely and very few of my letters filled in. The medium nib allowed the Topaz ink to shade nicely and the nib was a nice balance of smooth and a little grippy on the Rhodia paper which was a perfect balance. Sometimes pens can be too smooth and I feel like I have to chase to keep up with them but the Stola III seemed to be the perfect sweet spot. On other papers, the Stola III felt even smoother and even had a little bit of a stub look and feel to it which I liked.
The longer I write with the Stola III the more I enjoy the feeling of it. I like the smooth grip section and the weight of the pen. The only other thing I discovered is that because of the way the friction cap works, the cap cannot be posted without potentially damaging the plastic inside the cap that is what makes the closure work and keeps the pen from drying out.
As you can see in the photo above the plastic edge inside the cap sits awfully high and when I tried to rest the cap on the end of the pen I could feel it rubbing on the plastic while simultaneously not making a good seal and wobbling precariously. I did not mind not posting the Stola III as the pen is 4 5/8″ (11.5cm) unposted which was long enough to comfortably write with for me but if your hands are larger it may pose an issue. If you absolutely need to be able to post your cap, then the Stola III might not be your pen of choice.
Compared to the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan/Retro Pop, the Stola III has a similar overall length and width to the Pilot but does not taper quite as much. It definitely has a more refined, sophisticated look. I’m already thinking of it as my dressier pen where my Retro Pop and Safaris are more playful, casual pens.
Overall, the Stola III offers a lot at a low price point: good looks, metal body, standard European cartridges and converter options, nice nib and build quality. On the downside though, the pen is only available in a medium nib, only available in the silver and black model at present and the cap does not post. Hopefully, Pelikan will consider offering more color and nib size options in the future to make the Stola III more appealing to a wider audience though I think most pen enthusiasts can find a place in their hearts and in their wallets for this little gem.