The Blackwing Pearl is the third and - so far - final iteration of CalCedar’s Blackwing revival. Ironically, this was the Blackwing release that I was most excited about, yet it’s also the one that was the biggest letdown in terms of performance. On paper, the Pearl should be my favorite pencil. I love the pearlescent white lacquer, and white pencils are uncommon. Per Blackwing’s description, the Pearl also features “a balanced and smooth graphite core that is softer than the graphite found in the Blackwing 602, but firmer than the graphite found in the Blackwing.” In other words, a dark pencil like the original Blackwing with better point retention for writers. So what gives?
Multiple people have observed that the graphite core in the Pearl smears more than the core in the original Blackwing, despite being firmer. I’ve had the same experience, and for that reason alone I prefer the original Blackwing and/or the 602. I have a thing about being able to write on both sides of a piece of paper, and a pencil that smears and ghosts drives me crazy.
That’s not to say that the Pearl is a bad pencil - far from it - it’s much less smeary than a lot of other pencils, but if I’m shelling out $22 for a dozen Blackwings, and can get a darker line and less smearing and ghosting with the original and a perfectly adequate dark line with the 602, that leaves the Pearl as the odd-pencil-out. (I can actually tell very little difference between the point retention on the original Blackwing pencil and the Pearl, by the way, though the Pearl is slightly harder.)
As with their other pencils, Blackwing recently revised the design of the Pearl, which now differs from the pencil pictured here. While the Pearl still features the white finish, Blackwing has changed the imprint from black to gold and swapped in a white eraser. I’ve not seen the “new Pearl” in person, so I can’t say for sure how I feel, but this seems like a mixed bag. The white eraser looks nice, but the gold imprint…? I think I might prefer the black.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
The quickest way to buy a dozen Blackwings is via Amazon. Like the other pencils, Blackwing has featured the Pearl’s “smooth and balanced” graphite core in its series of limited edition “Blackwing Volumes” pencils, including the recently released Volume 1, a tribute to the singer-songwriter Guy Clark, and Volume 725, the initial limited edition Blackwing with a “sunburst” finish, based on Bob Dylan’s electric guitar at the Newport Music Festival. For some reason, the Pearl core has appeared in the music-themed editions. Intentional?....
This review is the third installment of an anticipated multipart review of the various Blackwing pencils on the market today. If you liked this post, please check out Part I - my review of the original Palomino Blackwing with some background on the revival of the brand, Part II - my review of the Blackwing 602, as well as my earlier review of the Blackwing line of notebooks.
Disclaimer: I purchased the pencils featured in this review with my own funds, for my own use. This post contains affiliate links.