Composing a write-up for this pen is tricky, because the maker has draped it in a lot of myth and mystery. Some of the company’s own material makes claims of long, unbroken production, on the strength that the Arte Italiana has a faceted body– it is true that there was a model of very similar shape, the Extra, which began production in 1932, but it’s hard to reconcile it as being the same model. The name “Arte Italiana” first appeared in OMAS’s catalogues in 1984, and that is probably when we should begin to properly speak of the model. However, in those catalogues, the name is applied very broadly, falling not just on pens of the old faceted shape, but also on what could be called mid-century cigar shaped pens (a shape which found its expression in American, English, and German pens, too)– in fact, just about everything in the catalogue that wasn’t of the contemporary slim and cylindrical shape gets to use the name.
It remains obscure to me just when the shift to the name being firmly associated with the pens with a dodecagonal cross section came about. Certainly by the turn of the century, Arte Italiana was specific to the shape, although there were still a large number of variants within the model. The most consistent aspect in these variations is size. The largest of the variants is the Paragon, followed by the Milord, which is also rather large. Current production offers only one more size, the Dama, which is meant as a “ladies’ pen” and follows the size of what might be considered a standard pen of the 1940s. In the 1980s, one could get a (sub-)model called the 1930 which appears to have been about the same size as the Dama, and a Gentleman which lay somewhere between the 1930 and the Milord.
Other variations lie in the area of trim and material. It seems that the Arte Italiana is less frequently used as the basis of limited editions than the 360 or the Ogiva, but even at that there are frankly too many variations to examine; it is nearly as diverse as the “normal” models of Parker 75 or Sheaffer Targa.
The perfomance of these pens is much like any other Italian pens, which is to say running from a high of heart-stoppingly good to a low of barely emitting ink. There are also some reports from the past decade of weaknesses in the piston mechanism, so care should be taken when filling. The feed is a fairly low-tech affair, looking very much like what was found in Parker Vacumatics; it probably won’t clog easily, but there is a greater chance of overloading the buffering than in many modern pens.
Production Run: 1984 to 2016, but do note the hedging of the first paragraph.
Cost When New: 2015 prices run from €348 for a base model Milord up to €8,606 for one with an 18K body, with various Milords, Damas and Paragons at points between. The 2014 catalogue indicates a low of €375 (resin Milord) to a high of €9,900 (18K Milord); this suggests something about exchange rates and the cost of precious metals.
Size: 14.5 cm long capped, 17.6 cm posted, 13.1 cm uncapped (Milord). OMAS’s site provides capped lengths of 11.9 cm and 14.9 cm for the Dama and the Paragon.
Point: 18K gold, although at least some models in earlier production had 14K points.
Body: Depending on version, can be cotton resin, celluloid, wood or titanium, and there’s likely other materials in past limited editions I’ve missed.
Filler: Piston , capacity approx. 1.2 ml (Milord) or cartridge (international type). The company’s site shows 0.75 ml capacity for the piston-filling Dama, and 1.84 for the Paragon, but is also suggests 1.42 ml in the Milord, which I cannot replicate no matter what I try. They also suggest their converter will hold 0.8 ml. Some cartridge models were fitted with the Advance Cartridge System while it was in use; it is described on the page for the OMAS 360.
If you are relying on the preceding information to win a bet or impress a teacher, you should read the site’s scholarly caveat. Remember, this is the internet, and it’s full of bad information.