Diamine is Cult Pens’ favourite ink brand, and we’ve had the privilege of working with the company for many years. After all, it was thanks to their expertise that Cult Pens’ own range of six Deep Dark Inks exist! It’s family-owned and offers a fabulous array of colours. Here’s their story…
Initially trading as T.W. Webster & Co Ltd, Diamine began the business of making ink in 1864, in Liverpool, and has remained loyally based in the city ever since. It is now one of the last remaining ink manufacturers in the UK and this year celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Henry Street was where it all began, with the factory being managed by the son, Reginald Webster.
Reginald’s formula books
Back then, the company had three arms to the business:
It supplied the leather trade – the shoe industry, bootmakers and repairers – with waxes and waxed threads; stains for leather, suede and satin shoes; and finishing dressings. A cobbler’s shop would be on most street corners in those days, and Diamine shoe stains were very popular. In Victorian times advertising was a powerful tool, and the company advertised in all the major magazines of the day with the slogan ‘ARE THEY NEW SHOES? ANSWER: NO, THEY HAVE JUST BEEN DIAMINED!’
It also supplied schools and banks with pen inks in stone jars, with the traditional colours for the banks being black for debit and red for credit. All were delivered by horse and cart.
Their third arm was in overseas trade - supplying blackboard renovator, paint, gums and ink powder through a network of religious bookshops in West Africa. As reading and writing skills at this time were limited, the Diamine trade mark was of paramount importance as this was recognised as a guarantee of quality.
The business thrived, and in order to cope with the heightened demand for manufactured goods in pre-war Britain, larger premises were needed. In 1925 a state of the art factory was built in Tariff Street.
1925: state of the art premises in Tariff Street, Liverpool
Exhibition of Diamine products circa 1950 Olympia, London
Fifty years later, Diamine downsized to a new location in the Bootle area of Liverpool. As ballpoint pens became the norm, whiteboards took over from blackboards, and the throw-away society influenced footwear, the business realised it needed to change direction. Adaptations were made, and stamp pads and drawing inks became the new in things. In 1980 the business was taken over by the Pneumatic Rubber Stamp group and inks for use with hand-held marking devices were developed. At this time Diamine was manufacturing over half a million stamp pads a year for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. As the rubber stamp trade saw extensive changes, the company was taken over yet again by larger groups such as Dormy and Trodat.
Today, Diamine is an independent family-run business, having experienced an invigorating revival when the late 1990s saw a renewed interest in fountain pen products. This resulted in the re-launch of the Diamine fountain pen ink brand, with the sole purpose of introducing a more exciting range of colours than was available anywhere.
The collection now consists of 131 stunning colours:
103 of them are available in 30ml and 80ml bottles, with every shade from cheeky red Syrah and Pumpkin orange, to amphibian green Salamander and violet Bilberry
There are 10 music-themed tones including a down to earth brown Bach and a sprightly green Beethoven
There are also 10 flower-themed hues such as purple Pansy and Cornflower blue
Cartridges come in 25 colours, from Ancient Copper to Woodland Green
They even supply Registrar’s Ink in traditional Blue Black, specially formulated using iron gall so that it will be just as legible in a few hundred years’ time as it is today.
Now, Diamine is celebrating its 150th Anniversary in style, with eight brand new colours. Each 40ml bottle is triangular, so the whole collection can fit together neatly (and appropriately) like a birthday cake. To commemorate its Victorian beginnings and its present-day success, the packaging design places ornate black-and-sepia text reminiscent of the 1800s against a modern multi-coloured, ink-splattered background.
From nostalgic 1864 Blue Black and earthy Terracotta to slinky Silver Fox and riotously red Carnival, these anniversary edition inks are a visual delight, a perfect way to recognise Diamine’s tradition of enduring quality and excellence.
Stories behind the Ink
Monaco Red was specially formulated for his Serene Highness Prince Rainer III of Monaco and the Grimaldi family, and was presented in conjunction with a limited edition fountain pen.
W.E.S. Imperial Blue is a special edition colour introduced on request for the Writing Equipment Society’s 25th anniversary in 2005.
Royal Blue was used in April 2010 by Presidents Obama and Medvedev when signing the Nuclear Arms Treaty at Prague Castel.
The inspiration for Asa Blue came about on a Mediterranean cruise, after listening to swing singer Asa Murphy. Not only does he have the most fantastic blue eyes, he is as Liverpudlian as Diamine!
On a slightly less elevated level, the colours Autumn Oak and Tyrian Purple were formulated by the next generation of the Diamine family – 15 year olds Courtney Wilson and Joshua Davies – under the guiding hand of an Ink Technician while on their work experience placement in 2014.