Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth a.s. is a Czech manufacturer of a full line of pencils, pens, and art supplies. Formed in 1790 by Joseph Hardtmuth of Austria, the company was named after the Koh-i-Noor, a famous Indian diamond. In 1802, they patented the first pencil lead made from a combination of clay and graphite.
In 1848, Joseph’s sons, Karl and Ludwig took over the family business, and the production was relocated to the town of Budweis, which belongs now to the Czech Republic. The products were awarded in many world exhibitions, among which in 1855 in New York, 1856, 1900 and 1925 in Paris, 1862 in London, 1882 in Vienna and 1905 in Milan.
At the 1889 World Fair in Paris, the Hardtmuth’s displayed their superior pencils rebranded as “Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth”. The new product which soon became a runaway success set the standard by which all other pencils were made, and graded. Each pencil was encased in a yellow cedar-wood barrel. The inspiration for the name was the famous Koh-i-Noor (meaning “Mountain of Light”)diamond, part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and the largest diamond in the world at the time.
Up for review today is the Toison D’or line of graphite pencils. Made of California cedar, these pencils are strong, durable and painted in a sleek, glossy black. The Toison D’or is one of the lightest pencils I have in my arsenal and almost makes me feel as though I’m writing with nothing. Putting pencil to paper is truly a love affair. I did my sketches on a Canson 50lb Sketch Pad and there was no sense of catching or grating of paper. Just smooth bliss. I tested the 3B, 2B and HB and they all performed beautifully. I am partial to softer lead grades, but the 3B really stole my heart.
Testing it against two other brands in 3B (the Castell 9000 and General Pencil’s Kimberly) left me feeling satisfied that it was a solid choice. Although not the smoothest (that prize goes to the Kimberly), it was light years ahead of the Castell 9000. The lead in the Toison D’or is made of a soft clay and graphite powder. Adding those two ingredients together leads to beautiful lines and low wear rates. The Toison D’or erased easily and did not smear when I was brushing away the eraser dust. Retail price for these pencils come in at an affordable $1.25 USD, but it’s more economical to buy the whole set as you would save money and it’s not like they would go to waste either. Definite BUY.