In 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany and John F. Young opened Tiffany & Young with a $1,000 loan from Mr. Tiffany’s father. That store was located in New York and sold stationery and other luxury goods such as costume jewelry. In 1841 Mr. Tiffany and Mr. Young took on another partner, J. L. Ellis, and the store became Tiffany, Young & Ellis. The name Tiffany & Company was adopted in 1853 when Charles Tiffany bought out his partners and took control. As the company’s sole lead, he established the firm’s emphasis on jewelry and developed a tradition of introducing designs that captured the mood of contemporary fashion and defined American luxury. The company has had its share of ups and downs throughout its history, particularly suffering from the effects of the stock market crash in the 1930s. Over the years and under various mantles of leadership, the company’s fortunes rebounded, making it the multi-million dollar company that it is today. Perhaps best known for its stunning jewelry, Tiffany & Co. has crafted many branded goods over the years. In the early 1990s, approximately 1/4 of those goods were made by the company itself. The balance was produced under contract by other manufacturers. Pelikan was one of those manufacturers, producing the M817 and M818 Atlas series of pens for Tiffany & Co.
The ‘Atlas’ moniker is well known in Tiffany lore. In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan condemned to hold up the sky for eternity after the Titans lost to the Olympians in the 10 year Titanomachy (aka, War of the Titans). By 1853, Tiffany & Co. had established itself as a leader in the quality jewelry trade. A new building was erected at 550 Broadway but Charles Tiffany felt that the facade looked somewhat “monotonous.” To remedy this, he commissioned his friend, Henry Frederick Metzler, to carve a 9-foot tall figure of Atlas holding a clock upon his shoulders. The statue was to be situated over the building’s entrance. Mr. Metzler was known for carving ship’s figureheads. In response to his friend’s request, he carved from fir a rather realistic human form standing tall and proud, naked except for a crossed leather strap. Though it is made of wood, the statue was painted to mimic the patina of weathered bronze. Over 150 years later, that statue remains in place on their flagship building’s facade, as much a symbol of the company as their iconic blue boxes.
Sharing the name of this historic statue (along with a few other product lines), the M817 and M818 Atlas pens were produced by Pelikan for Tiffany & Co. in the year 1990. Built off of the M800 chassis, neither pen bears any branding from Pelikan. While both pens have identical styling, the resin of the M817 is a cobalt blue color and the M818 is done in black. While conforming to the same size and weight of any M8xx pen, the Atlas differs in the furniture. The piston knob features a thick, faceted trim ring not previously or since seen on any limited edition from Pelikan. There is a single cap band engraved “Tiffany & Co. ATLAS Germany.” The cap top displays a faceted crown and a medallion stamped “Tiffany & Co.” rather than the Pelikan company logo. Gone is the pelican beak cap clip, replaced by a straight, square clip. Rounding out the 24C gold-plated furniture is a trim ring at the end of the section. Both pens have an ink window colored smoke grey. The nibs are a custom design done in two-toned 18C-750 gold that bear the Tiffany & Co logo. I have seen examples equipped with F, M, and B nibs. Like all Pelikan pens, the company’s exemplary piston filling mechanism is retained here along with their interchangeable nib so that any M8xx nib will fit the Atlas. Ballpoint, rollerball, and pencil configurations of the Atlas were also available. I have seen it stated that a total of 1000 pens were produced though I cannot independently verify that piece of information.
The Tiffany Atlas commands a modest premium over a standard M800 in today’s secondary market. The M817 and M818 Atlas has all the quality of a Pelikan pen married to the Tiffany cachet. They make for great collectors pieces, excellent writers, and an overall nicely designed pen.