Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen Review

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The Aurora Afrika is the first in Aurora’s Continents series of limited edition pens. Each pen is based on Aurora’s top-of-the-line Optima, which is one of my favorite modern fountain pens. Aurora produced 7,500 Afrika fountain pens and I have acquired No. 2486.

 

Appearance

The Afrika looks like an Optima but with some key improvements. The shiny black resin section and end caps have been replaced with matte black resin. The cap ring has been improved with a deeper and more intricate engraving that provides much more contrast.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The clip is engraved with the shape of Africa and the finial is engraved with the pen’s number and features a “precious deep-black Onyx”.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

 

The body is made out of a marbled “Land of Afrika” resin that is a gorgeous orangish gold color with black swirls. This resin has a lot of depth, much more than an “Auroloide” Optima.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The large and beautiful 18kt gold nib shares the same design as the Optima and other high-end Auroras.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The design of the Optima is uniquely Aurora and while it looks like no other pen, I do have to admit that its stocky appearance has not always been my favorite. With some key enhancements the Afrika has more than just a great personality, it has a beautiful face as well.

Score: 4.5/5

 

Build Quality

Let’s start with a confession; I recently broke my Aurora Optima. The piston knob came off. I set the pen down with the piston unscrewed to attend to something else and when I came back to it I suspect that I turned it the wrong way without thinking and off it came. This is the first pen I have broken in very long time, ten years maybe. It is now on holiday in Italy for the time being.

It is possible that the glue failed but I am waiting to hear Aurora’s assessment before I make any judgements.

For all intents and purposes the Afrika is of the same build quality as the Optima. The engraving on the cap ring is the only thing that stands out to me as an improvement…the other differences I sighted in the appearance section are merely a more tasteful selection of materials and design choices.

Note the different African tribal shields.
Note the different African tribal shields.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

Even though I broke my Optima I still believe that it is one of the highest quality fountain pens money can buy. Like the Optima, the Afrika has the smoothest piston mechanism I have used and the fit and finish are flawless. Aurora makes their own nibs in-house and uses solid ebonite feeds…I don’t think there is more that I can ask for.

Score: 5/5

 

Size & Weight

The Aurora Optima first appeared in the late 1930s as a competitor to my favorite vintage pen, the OMAS Extra Lucens.

1938 OMAS Extra Lucens

One of the things that Aurora got right that almost all vintage Italian makers missed was girth. Aurora made fat pens. Anything other than the senior and oversized models from OMAS, Ancora, Montegrappa, Columbus and so on are too skinny for me to use comfortably but the medium and small Auroras are comfortable because they are fat.

The Afrika takes after the vintage Optima’s 1930s proportions. Measuring just 5.1” with a section diameter of 0.4”; that’s the same size my Nakaya Naka-ai and my OMAS Paragon which each measure almost 6” long.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen
Notice how much of the body is the section compared to the OMAS above.

The section is fat but unlike my Nakaya and OMAS the grip section is also very long which makes the Afrika (and Optima) one of the most comfortable pens on the market. The section is big enough to accommodate almost any grip style.

The Afrika is ever so slightly heavier than the Optima weighing in at 22.2 grams which still makes the Afrika a lightweight pen by any measure.

When it comes to size and weight the Optima is appropriately named….it gets everything right (as does its African sibling).

Score: 5/5

 

Performance

As I mentioned earlier, Aurora makes all of their nibs in-house and as such their nibs feel different than any other manufacturers. Aurora’s obliques, stubs and italics are sharper than any other big brands I have come across.

Aurora’s round pointed nibs have more feedback than most other quality brands as well. They are more or the less the opposite of the buttery smooth nibs Visconti is known for and as such Aurora’s nibs can be polarizing.

People love them or hate them. I for one like the feedback because it helps me slow down my cursive and really focus on properly forming my letters (don’t look at my writing sample)….if a Visconti nib is a rollerball (which slides all over the place) the Aurora is like a pencil…you feel in control.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

My Optima has a 14kt gold nib and the Afrika has an 18kt gold nib and while the design and shape are all the same I have noticed some differences using a small sampling of each. Both nibs are nails…one isn’t more flexible than the other but the 18kt nibs seem to have a finer line width than the 14kt gold ones that I have tested.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen
The ebonite feed holds a lot of ink thanks to it’s many fins.

Another great thing about these nibs is that they can be easily swapped. The nib units unscrew out of the sections just like Pelikans do and with Aurora’s wide range of exotic nibs there is a lot to chose from. I should warn you though that their nibs are expensive. Street price for the 18kt gold nibs are $420 ($440 for italics, stubs and obliques). The 14kt gold nibs are $300 ($320 for italics, stubs and obliques).

All of my Aurora pens have been flawless performers out of the box and the Afrika is no exception.

Score: 5/5

 

Filling System

The Afrika is a piston filler that holds 1.1ml of ink which is more than most converters but less than many full sized piston fountain pens. The Afrika also features Aurora’s “reserve tank” technology. When the pen runs out of ink you twist the piston knob all the way and the “reserve tank” is activated, allowing you to write for a couple more pages.

Personally I find the reserve tank annoying. It makes it difficult to clean the pen and change ink colors because with the piston fully depressed there is still water or ink left in the pen by design.

Score: 1.5/5

 

Value

Aurora recently raised their prices and the Afrika now retails for $1,075 but these pens can be found new in box on that auction site for around $350-$400. I picked up mine used for about $250 which is oddly less than you can get a used Optima for (these pens seem to be under the radar for the time being).

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

The authorized dealer street price is about $860 which when compared to a Montblanc 149 doesn’t seem crazy but the 149’s $935 price is only justified by people who view it as a status symbol and that’s something the Aurora cannot offer.

Also I should point out that the Afrika is a limited edition of 7,500 pieces and even though this pen has been out for more than 5 years Aurora dealers still have brand new inventory to sell.   It seems as though Aurora made too many and is asking too much.

Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen

Score: 3/5

 

Bottom Line

The Afrika is truly sublime and presents a tremendous value on the secondhand market.

Final Score 24/30

 

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4 thoughts on “Aurora Afrika Fountain Pen Review”

  1. I have a few Aurora’s (it’s my favorite brand), and I find it easier to clean the pen’s reservoir if I remove the nib unit and then just blast out the barrel with a syringe (that I normally use for mixing inks or something). It’s very quick, and I can usually get it completely clean in just two squirts. Then, while the nib unit is out, I clean it by pushing it into a rubber bulb top from an old tincture bottle (like from a bottle of chlorophyll), and squeezing the bulb over and over in clean water. It gets the pens squeaky clean, and it’s fast!

    Mmm, I’m so tempted to get an Afrika after seeing your stellar photos!

    1. Thank you for your comment! Aurora is definitely one of my favorites too. As far as cleaning is concerned you are right that the best way to get the pen completely clean is to remove the nib unit. Now that I have a couple of different nibs for my Optimas and Afrika I always do a deep cleaning when I swap a nib but I am not sure it is worth doing every time you change ink. I think I am more likely to break something by removing the nib.

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