Ink Showcase: Diamine Golden Sands
I'm not really a fan of yellow inks. They tend to suffer from one of two fatal flaws: they're either blindingly bright, or too faint to read comfortably on white paper. Nevertheless, Diamine Golden Sands lured me in with its shiny, shimmery goodness. So has it changed my opinion?
Packaging & Bottle
Diamine packages its Shimmertastic ink line in black paper boxes that are adorned with several design elements. The front of the box displays the Diamine logo and has a sticker applied that denotes the name of the ink, along with a small swatch of its general hue. The sides of the box have a pattern of ink spatters in gold and silver, which are intended to connote the colors of the particulate used in the Shimmertastic line. The back of the box is perhaps the most interesting: several words are written in calligraphy alongside drawings of several fountain pens, brushes, and random shapes like stars and gems. It’s playful and fun, and I enjoy seeing a more rococo approach compared to some of the more austere packaging used on so many other ink boxes.
Moving on to the bottle, it’s a simple cylindrical affair that’s made of glass. The applied label features the same design elements as found on the box, and the name of the ink appears at the bottom of the label. The cap has a simple, rounded design and is color-matched to the color of the shimmer particulate, meaning you’ll find a gold cap on inks that contain gold shimmer, while inks with silver shimmer will have silver caps.
One notable fact is that the mouth of this bottle is a bit narrow. It will likely work with most of your pens without issue, but filling oversized pens may prove problematic, especially if they don’t have removable converters that can be filled directly.
Color & Inspiration
When all goes right, Golden Sands is a luscious, rich shade of gold with stunning shimmering particles. It’s absolutely true to its name. The shimmer particulate neatly emulates the glistening grains of sand that you’d find on a beach on a sunny day. The particulate is everything you want it to be: bright, vibrant, and radiant, and they contrast nicely with the more muted gold hue of the ink itself.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the ink does have some nice shading to it, but you’re only likely to see that shading in the absence of the shimmer particulate (more on that later). For the most part, the shimmer particles mask the shading and provide a gilded look to your lettering which can be quite delightful when properly achieved.
One thing I particularly enjoy about Golden Sands is that it is more legible than other yellow/gold inks I’ve experienced. Sure, under certain lighting the shimmer will reflect light in such a way that it’s not that easy to read, but in most indoor lighting situations it takes on a slightly darker appearance that lends itself well to legibility. That legibility is somewhat reduced when using finer nibs, however, so keep that in mind.
Before I purchased this ink I was quite curious about how it would perform on dark colored paper. I had dreams that it would be the fountain pen equivalent of a gold paint marker, but the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t. When used on darker paper, Golden Sands takes on an appearance that’s closer to bronze than gold, but you can still get some shimmer out of it if you apply it in sufficient volume.
As much as I enjoy the appearance of Golden Sands, its performance is finicky to say the least. Specifically, the shimmer particles will sometimes clog the feed in your pen, and the results can be quite frustrating. When the particles get stuck in the feed, you’re often left with just a muted shade of yellow that shades well but is otherwise uninspiring. Worse yet, the clogged particles can cause issues with ink flow. Sometimes this will take the form of partial skipping, but it can also result in full-on blockage.
The interruption to ink flow has been especially annoying when I use Golden Sands in pens with flex nibs. Because the shimmer particles clog the feed, flex nibs tend to railroad more often than usual when using this ink. Moreover, the distribution of the shimmer particles can often be uneven, which results in some characters having a beautiful gilded look while others are just a mustardy shade of yellow.
I really don’t enjoy that asymmetry, so one way I’ve found to get around it is to use my flex nib pens essentially like dip pens. I start by vigorously shaking the bottle, and then draw a small amount of ink into my pen. It’s generally a good idea to shake this bottle before using the ink, especially if it’s been sitting for some time, as the shimmer particulate tends to settle to the bottom rather quickly. The initial inking results in a feed that’s nicely saturated and works well for the first few characters of flex writing. Once I run into railroading, I’ll just dip the nib and feed into the bottle again, gently tap off any excess ink, and continue writing. From time to time you may need to cap the bottle and shake it a little more to ensure the shimmer particles are suspended. It’s definitely a slower approach to flex writing than I’d prefer, but I do find it provides the best results.
Finally, I should mention that Golden Sands takes quite a bit of time to dry. When first put down on paper, the ink takes on a much darker, brownish appearance, especially when used with flex nibs. As the ink dries, the hue will slowly change to the vibrant gold you see in most pictures, but be prepared to wait. And when I say ‘wait,’ I mean minutes, not seconds.
As of the time of this writing, $18.50 is the best price I’ve found for a 50ml bottle of Golden Sands. That works out to $.37/ml. That rate may seem middle-of-the-road for fountain pen inks generally, but it’s actually rather affordable for a shimmering ink. J. Herbin’s 1670 or 1798 lines are noticeably more expensive ($.53/ml) as are shimmering inks from De Atramentis ($.46/ml), but there are also shimmer inks that are slightly less expensive, such as Nemosine’s TwINKle line ($.34/ml). Having said that, I’m not sure there’s a comparable substitute for Golden Sands at a more affordable rate, so if you’re really taken with it there may not be another option.