Sunday, December 11, 2022

Homage! Colour Treasure 849 Ballpoint Pen


Caran d'Ache Colour Treasure 849 ballpoint pen

Obviously, the latest Prismalo bicolor pencils and, to a lesser extent, the Maxi graphite pencils, are the most exciting products in Caran d’Ache’s limited edition holiday collection this year. The Colour Treasure model 849 ballpoint pens did catch my eye because of their brightly striped design. I know from the standard 849 model I already have that the pen is an excellent writer. I was fully ready to resist, however, since I’m certainly not collecting ballpoints. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of reading Caran d’Ache’s product description (awkwardly auto-translated, I’m afraid):

The essential 849 ballpoint pen is adorned with two shades of warm or cold tones, alternating from yellow to pink or from blue to green. These two limited editions play here with their appearance and pay homage to the colored pencils so dear to the House, in a resolutely nostalgic spirit.

Those aren’t just colorful stripes on the pens – they emulate colored pencils! How could I resist a pen that pays homage to “the colored pencils so dear to the House”? And so dear to me, too! (OK, there is something weirdly ironic that a ballpoint pen would be made to pay homage to pencils, but whatever.)

Like the other pieces in the Colour Treasure collection, the 849 pen comes in a metallic gold gift box with the rainbow wraparound.

Same blingy tin as the bicolors and Maxi graphite pencils.

Although the “cool rainbow” colorway made my decision tough, I chose the “hot rainbow” edition, which displays “pencils” in red, orange, yellow, pink, lavender and purple. The body style is otherwise identical to the classic 849 pen barrel and similar to the 849 clutch barrel. To Caran d’Ache’s credit, the Swiss company has retained this design for decades, making it truly iconic (and not just pseudo-vintage).

Colored pencil stripes on a pen!

12/3/22 Caran d'Ache Colour Treasure 849 ballpoint in Moleskine 
sketchbook (Earthsworld reference photo)

With a bouncy, not-too-clicky knock, the pen is pleasant to write with, but I admit that I don’t use my purple 849 much to draw with (on a whim, I did use it once during InkTober, though – the man in purple ink on Oct. 25). I decided to christen the Colour Treasure pen with a portrait sketch (at right).

The ink contained in the Caran d’Ache “Goliath” cartridges is on the opposite end of the scale from my go-to favorite: While Bic ink is thick and oily, CdA ballpoint ink is more like water. It flows smoothly and never blobs, making it ideal for writing. When I’ve occasionally drawn with my other 849 in the past, I got impatient with it because it seemed to take longer to build up layers compared to a blobby, viscous Bic. Using graphite pencils as a metaphor, a Bic is a soft, dark 4B (though not a Japanese 4B, which would never blob if it were an ink!), while the 849 is a European HB – lighter and harder than I want it to be.

Yet when I drew with my Colour Treasure 849, I appreciated the ink’s smoothness and non-blobbiness, and it didn’t take longer to crosshatch darker areas. Maybe my skills handling ballpoint improved after InkTober, or maybe I was just in a good mood. In any case, I started having an 849 moment in the same way that I had a Caran d’Ache Grafwood moment last summer: Maybe I just needed to pair it with the right paper. In this case, I used the Moleskine sketchbook that I had used for all my crosshatched ballpoint portraits, and the pen took to it beautifully.

My Colour Treasure ballpoint isn’t just an homage to colored pencils; it’s a pen I will use joyfully for both writing and drawing.

Like the bicolors and Maxi pencils, I got my 849 from Penworld in Belgium, where the entire Colour Treasure collection was less expensive at the time than other European and American shops. Since then, Penworld’s prices for all the collection products have gone up. Luckily, the 849 pen is one of the easiest Colour Treasure products to find in the US. I’ve seen it at Atlas Stationers, Goldspot, Pen Chalet and other pen shops.

My small family of Caran d'Ache 849s (from top): Colour Treasure and standard edition ballpoints, Klein Blue 2mm clutch, standard edition 2mm clutches, 3mm clutch

It's sweet to receive a gift from Belgium, even if I have to give it to myself.


  1. That is a lovely little family of pens and pencils. I seem to be slowly collecting 849s, and I like the FixPencils also. I went for the "cool rainbow"; both are hard to resist! Happy to learn that it's an homage to colored pencils.

    1. I sometimes regret that I didn't get both cool and hot rainbows! They are pretty sweet pens!


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