Caran d’Ache: Explore the Brand

Innovation, Social Responsibility and Environmentalism in a Presentation Tin

Caran d’Ache, the bane of autocorrect but a brand name synonymous with quality and sustainability. For many, Caran d’Ache punctuated their school art careers with colourful and beautifully decorated pencil tins containing exceptional coloured pencils. so versatile are Caran d’Ache art products that entire artistic syllabi could be covered with little more than a mountain covered tin of Prismalo coloured pencils! With a vast collection of products sold in over 90 countries, Caran d’Ache is a beloved brand in the artistic world as well as stationery users and enthusiasts. So, how did Caran d’Ache evolve from the ‘Fabrique Genevoise de Crayons’ of Geneva, Switzerland, to world renowned purveyors of exceptional art materials and writing equipment, and a leader in social responsibility, sustainability and environmentally friendly practices?

Birth of a Brand - Caran d’Ache

Throughout its history, Caran d’Ache has produced pencils, pens and products of excellence. To date, the brand has a large variety of stationery products and arts materials including fountain pens, rollerball, and ballpoint pens, pen cases, and mechanical pencils. It began as a family owned business founded in 1915 in Geneva as the ‘Fabrique Genevoise de Crayons’.

Image Credit: Caran d'Ache

Natural materials present in Switzerland provided the foundation for the original swiss pencil factory. In 1924, the company was taken over by Arnold Schweitzer who renamed the company Caran d’Ache. The name comes from a few origins, the Turkish for pencil comes from their term for graphite - kara-tash or black stone. The Russian for pencil is karandash which was taken on by French satirical political cartoonist Emmanuel Poiré who francized it to Caran d’Ache. Schweitzer adopted the name and the brand was born.

Image Credit: Arcadja

The logo has changed several times over the years, with the biggest changes to the branding and logo taking place in 2015 to mark the centenary of the company. Throughout its history, a common theme has been the slant and elongation of the ‘R’ in Caran and the ‘A’ and d’ an homage to the signature of Poiré. 

In 2015, a custom typeface of more than 9240 characters was created by Matthieu Cortat of Base. The typeface remains true to the spirit of caran d’Ache with neat and chiselled font which retains a smoothness and spontaneity which is characteristic of the performance of the art supplies and writing equipment.

A common feature of the Caran d’Ache brand that remains proudly a part of the logos is the charming character ‘Bonnie-Mine’. Bonne-Mine is an anthropomorphised pencil with a top hat and ‘stick-man’ arms, he has featured strongly in the Caran d’Ache packaging since 1920.

Caran d’Ache - Product Development

From its inception 106 years ago, Caran d’Achehas instilled the importance of high-quality products manufactured to the highest level using talented craftsmen - even today, much of the process is completed by hand. Caran d’Ache is famed for their range of exceptional writing instruments, in fact they have a pretty extensive range of products including;

  • Fountain, Ballpoint and Rollerball pens
  • Graphite and Mechanical Pencils
  • Pencil sharpeners and Rubbers
  • Bottled Inks, Cartridges and refills
  • Blending stumps and Brushes
  • Leather Goods, Bags and Lighters
  • Notebooks, Drawing Pads and Palettes
  • Coloured Pencils, Pastels, Markers and Wax Crayons

Caran d’Ache offers a comprehensive palette of writing and creative products designed to be an extension of the hand. All Caran d’Ache products are beautifully designed, often with original materials. Their art equipment features strong pigments in an astounding range of shades. 

Innovation is at the heart of Caran d’Ache’s history, oftentimes products were a world first.

The first mechanical pencil “Fixpencil” was designed in 1929, and the clamp mechanism was patented. It featured a simple push-button to open the jaws allowing for the lead to be repositioned.

Shortly afterwards, the Prismalo Aquarelle was created. The first of its kind, this coloured pencil transformed to watercolour when wetted. The was a truly novel idea at its point of release in 1931. When used dry, the Prismalo Aquarelle acts as any normal coloured pencil but, add water and they become watercolour paints! They could even be used dry on dampened paper to create a whole new dynamic. The Aquarelle pencils have been adapted and added to over the years and remains an incredibly popular Caran d’Ache product.

In 1952, the Neocolour wax oil pencils were introduced to positive review and in 1972 the composition was adapted to make them water soluble. As with many Caran d’Ache product lines, these have been tweaked over the years and remain a key part of the Caran d’Ache collections and admired product.

Shortly after the first rendition of the Neocolour came the Ecridor. Originally this was intended as a high-end alternative to the Fixpencil but when a ballpoint was added to the range in 1953 it was acknowledged by Caran d’Ache that they had created an elegant classic that would stand alone. Although the range has been expanded and refined, it retains much the same design as the early 1950’s models and continues to be a sought after product.

The same year that man landed on the moon, the iconic 849 was released. It followed the Ecridor in Caran d’Ache’s luxury designs but it became more popular among everyday pen users due to its simpler finish and sturdy construction. The design of the 849 meant that it could take on any design, colour or finish and Caran d’Ache has fully recognised this with some incredible iterations of the 849 from recycled nespresso barrels to collaborations with well-known designers such as Paul Smith as well as releases to honour icons such as Yves Klein. The 849 made such an impact that it even featured on a Swiss postage stamp as part of a series celebrating Swiss design. 

In the 1970’s, Caran d’Ache expanded their ranges to include their first Fountain Pen - The Madison. Shortly after, in 1985, the Fine Arts range was launched with Neopastel. The arts collection was again expanded in 2010 with the introduction of the Luminance 6901 coloured pencils which have the highest certification of lightfastness of any other pencil. This technology is ideal for those using Caran d’Ache products to create artwork for display. In 2008, the Bar à Couleur was established which allowed customers to test Caran d’Ache products.

In 1999, Caran d’Ache entered the Guinness book of world records with their ‘Modernista Diamonds’ which was set with 5072 diamonds and 96 rubies, the estimated value of over $300,000 made it the most expensive writing instrument in the world at that time. 

In tribute to Swizz haute horlogerie, the 1010 Diamonds Fountain pen was introduced in 2010 and featured 850 diamonds and a barrel constructed from white gold. This masterpiece was the most extravagantly priced pen by Caran d’Ache.

Caran d'Ache Arrives in the UK

Lydia Sacki was a German living in London who, at the outbreak of World War Two, escaped to Israel. At the end of the war, Lydia returned to the UK and in 1949 set up Jakar International. The company supplied Artist materials as well as stationery and craft products across the UK and Ireland. Lydia’s family had initially immigrated to the UK from Germany and imported drawing instruments and cuckoo clocks. In the 1950’s Lydia’s son Kenneth joined the business and by the 1960’s he was made managing director and set out to expand the business. His expansion plan was realised through the international sourcing of a wide range of stationery, arts and craft products. Jakar International became the exclusive UK and Ireland distributor of Caran d’Ache. A close relationship between Caran d’Ache and Jakar International was formed and to this day the family run business remains the enigmatic supplier to the UK. The company is now run by Lydia’s grandson Paul who has been Managing Director of Jakar International since 2015 and continues the proud tradition of supplying products of excellence to UK and Ireland retailers. 

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Sustainability, Environmentalism and Social Responsibility: Caran d’Ache Leading the Way

Since the company began in 1915, Caran d’Ache has kept quality at the heart of its products alongside appreciation for the environment and respect for humanity.

Each stage of production has developed sustainable practices to limit the negative impact of the manufacturing process. All Caran d’Ache pencils are certified FSC or PEFC so you know that this certification guarantees that the wood used in their construction is from protected forests which are responsibly managed.

Caran d'Ache is leading the way in ethical manufacturing as well including social responsibility into the core of the company ethos.


Caran d'Ache has introduced solar power into their production process with 800m² of solar panels providing power. They also utilise the wood shavings from their pencil production to fuel their heating system, 80 tonnes of wood shavings are repurposed in this way which alongside other measures means they have significantly reduced their annual CO2 emissions.

Image Credit: Caran d'Ache

They also have a stringent water policy with Caran d’Ache having developed a water based varnish to replace the solvent based varnishes used in the past. This increased their dedication to reduce and recycle when it comes to water usage. At the point of writing, 20% of water is recycled and the consumption of water has reduced by 30% over the past 4 years. Much of the waste water from the manufacturing process has been recovered and reintegrated into the production chain with more than a third of water waste making its way back into use.

Sustainability extends beyond the manufacturing process for Caran d’Ache. Many of the finer writing instruments are hand assembled and so can be repaired relatively easily with the intention that they can become heirloom pieces and serve their owner for at least a lifetime. This intends to fight against the throwaway consumerism which can haunt the stationery industry.

Social Responsibility

It is not just object sustainability that Caran d’Ache is passionate about, the company is a huge champion for its staff and the communities which benefit from their products. The company itself prides itself on prioritising workplace well-being reconciled with performance and finding an appropriate balance for all of its team members. Much of this forward thinking attitude is attributed to the fact that Caran d’Ache began as, and remains, a company with family at its core. This is fairly progressive in the cut-throat corporate world.

Image Credit: Caran d'Ache

In 1970, Caran d’Ache co-founded the Inter-Company Social Service (Service Social Inter-Entreprises, SSIE) to support the development and personal growth of its employees. This extends beyond the walls of the offices, workshops and warehouses and intp the wider community. Each year, aran d’Ache offers free training to hundreds of teachers of the visual arts throughout Switzerland and has an integration programme with an in-house workshop dedicated to supporting workers with a disability to return to the workforce. Caran d’Ache works with cultural, humanitarian and important social figures to share their values and support development.

Image Credit: Caran d'Ache

The Environment

We have touched on some of the aspects of sustainable practices for which Caran d’Ache is known. In particular, Caran d’Ache is celebrated for its steps to protect the environment and reduce their negative impact. For example, ensuring that the wood used in their pencil manufacturing is cedar wood from certified plantations to ensure that over-processing of trees is avoided and that a sustainable logging practice is supported as well as ensuring a carbon neutral balance.

One well known example of their innovation with environmentalism is the collaboration with Nespresso to produce a striking ballpoint pen from used capsules. Throughout Switzerland, capsules are collected (the Swiss have a strong coffee culture!) and sent to be cleaned. Any scraps of coffee are converted into a natural fertiliser and the aluminium from the capsules is cleaned and melted down to be used to manufacture the pen. Stylish, practical and with heart! 

Caran d’Ache at the Hamilton Pen Company

At Hamilton Pens we are proud to be a supplier of Caran d’Ache art products and writing equipment. Check out our full selection of Caran d’Ache products.

Here is a small selection of some of our most most popular Caran d’Ache Products - just click the product title to visit the shop

Caran d'Ache 849 Paul Smith Edition 3 Ballpoint Pen

Known for his chic, vibrant stripes, the English designer Sir Paul Smith is back working in collaboration with Caran d’Ache for the third time. There is a clear link between them, reflecting the same boundless creativity and a common passion for colours. Sir Paul Smith’s creative genius brings them to life in the form of stripes which would brighten up any item of clothing, piece of furniture or fashion accessory.

The iconic 849 ballpoint pen, Sir Paul Smith’s daily companion, is transformed into an ultra-trendy object and the designer’s signature covers its hexagonal shape. As comfortable as ever to hold, it displays incomparable elegance and style. The packaging of the 849 Paul Smith Edition 3 is available in the 8 vibrant colours of the stripes decorating this legendary ballpoint pen. There is a colour to match everyone’s mood!

Fitted with the legendary Goliath refill in blue medium and presented in the Caran D'Ache 3D 849 storage tin.

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 2mm Clutch Pencil - Textured Grip

The Caran d'Ache Fixpencil clutch pencil has a proven track record of reliability. Takes 2mm leads and comes with 3 colour options for the push button so you can easily distinguish different lead grades.

Features a light weight aluminium hexagonal shaped body, textured finger grip area and has a built in sharpener concealed beneath the push button. Supplied with one grade B lead.

Caran d'Ache Swisscolor Coloured Pencils - Set of 18

Caran D'ache Swisscolor Colour Pencils are an affordable but excellent quality, water soluble pencil that is ideal for beginners and students aswell as accomplished artists.
Can be used with water to achieve water colour effects and techniques, but are just as comfortable to use as ordinary colouring pencils.
Swisscolor colour pencils are designed and manufactured in the Geneva workshops of Caran d'Ache, in line with eco-friendly standards and certifications and according to the Swiss Made quality label.

Caran d'Ache 849 Brut Rosé Ballpoint Pen retains the traditional hexagonal shape of the famed Swiss ballpoint but has a rose gold anodised finish with matching pocket clip.

Fitted with the legendary Caran d'Ache Goliath refill in colour blue with a medium tip.

Presented in an unusual matching colour storage tin with a 3D impression of the pen.

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Set - Limited Edition

This limited edition pencil set comprises 2 grade HB pencils, one made from Swiss Pine wood, the other from Swiss Beech wood, a single hole sharpener and an extra soft eraser.

Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen - Red

In keeping with its 849 siblings, the Caran d'Ache 849 Fountain Pen has the traditional hexagonal shape and chrome pocket clip of this iconic range of pens. Elegantly sleek, the 849 fountain pen is sturdy yet surprisingly light with a comfortable balance when in use.

Supplied with a blue Caran d'Ache ink cartridge and presented in a red Caran d'Ache card gift box.

Caran d'Ache Chromatics Ink - Magnetic Blue

Within each 50ml bottle of Caran d'Ache Chromatics ink lies the expertise of a unique savoir-faire: the science of colours.

Vibrant. Deep. Powerful. Sustained. From a bursting red to a radiant purple, from an empyreal turquoise to a fiery orange, Chromatics ink colours impose their noble marks across the entire spectrum of light.

Every inkwell is a prism, playing with the reflections of the light and intensifying the colour that it holds inside. Each personality submits to the caprices of evocative names that entice one inescapably away to voyage and discovery. Beyond their colours, the characters assert themselves through to the tip of the pen, and breathe life into the very page.

The Art of Fine Penmanship is adorned in a colourful finery that vivifies the most beautiful pieces of written work.

And a unique slanted glass bottle makes filling your pen simple!



Explore our full collection of Caran d'Ache!


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