Best of the Best 2007: Pens: Loiminchay Nine Dragons
Loiminchay Nine Dragons
In Chinese art and folklore, dragons often symbolize power and prosperity. Loiminchay’s all-jade Nine Dragons pen conveys a similar message, but not necessarily because it depicts nine of the creatures coiling around its barrel. If you own one of the 10 examples of this $250,000 writing instrument, you have enjoyed some prosperity and likely possess some persuasive powers—as well as an appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship that the pen represents.
Nine Dragons is the latest of the more than 20 Asian-themed pen collections that Patrick Chu has designed over the last six years for Loiminchay, his New York City pen-making firm. Each of the pens in the Nine Dragons collection was carved in Kwangtung, China, from a single block of premium-quality Burmese jade. The stone is nearly as hard as a diamond—and almost as difficult to work with—and it is extremely rare in the size large enough to produce one of the approximately 8.5-inch-long writing instruments. “We respected each stone with its slight variations of color and texture, so every pen is a one-of-a-kind work of art,” says Chu, who expects the final pen in the series to be completed next year.
After the pens are carved, they are polished by hand, fitted with 18-karat gold appointments, and then assembled in France by a specialty firm that frequently works with the brand. Each pen is paired with a lacquered stand and a lacquered-wood-and-leather display case.
In recent years, the Hong-Kong-born Chu, who is in his early 40s, has explored a variety of pen-making styles. He has experimented with a range of materials—including wood and resin—and Asian art forms, such as maki-e lacquering. In 2005, he introduced the FuShou, a handpainted porcelain pen that was featured in Robb Report’s 2006 Best of the Best edition. “The FuShou relied on centuries of experience in ceramics to create its dramatic look,” says Chu, alluding to China’s long history of producing fine porcelains.
The porcelain Golden Arabesque pen followed in 2006, depicting painted images of the 14th-century Silk Road trade route between China and the Middle East. Loiminchay produced 12 rose gold–trimmed pieces priced at $12,000 each. The Calligraphy pen, also introduced last year, is made with Chinese red lacquer and gold and decorated with more than 40 calligraphy characters “with spiritual meaning in every brushstroke,” says Chu. The symbols reference the earliest forms of Chinese characters inscribed on oracle bones—pieces of turtle shell or animal bones that ancient China’s royalty used in divination. The edition comprises 28 pens priced at $12,000 each.
Chu, who began his design career in commercial art, has collected contemporary and classic pens for more than 20 years. He founded Loiminchay as an advertising agency in the mid-1990s, and soon after, he began making writing instruments for himself. Then in 2001, he produced his first piece, the Qian Long, under the Loiminchay brand name. He named this oversize ebonite fountain pen with a jade clip for the Qing dynasty emperor who was China’s foremost patron of the arts during his reign in the 18th century.
“Patrick envisions what he wants, then takes it from start to finish,” says Rick Schwartz, a California collector who owns 31 Loiminchay pens, including Nine Dragons. “Nine Dragons is the most important piece in my pen collection. Now that I own something of this magnitude, I wonder, ‘Where do I go from here?’ ”
Wherever he goes, Schwartz should be safe if he brings his Nine Dragons with him, at least according to Chinese lore. “Jade is precious to most Chinese,” says Chu. “It is said that it protects its owner from harm.”