Style, Quality, Mass-Production


"K Diamond" Advertising Cast Iron Letter and Pen Holder (LEO Design)


One of the recurring themes of my Journal Ramblings is the confluence of taste, quality and modern production methods. There was a time in the Nineteenth Century—during the height of the Industrial Revolution—when good & tasteful design married the economically-advantageous benefits of industrial mass-production.  The idea was to create a beautiful original and then to produce them in great quantity—an effort "to bring good taste and quality to the masses."  This happened in England and, a little later, in America and throughout the industrializing world.

The simple 19th Century letter and pen holder, shown above, is an example of this phenomenon.  Two identical "ends"—formed as a pair of flared, booted legs—are spaced three-and-a-half inches apart, joined with rods.  A steel coil winds its way from one side to the other, perfect for holding letters, photos or other notes & lists.  The hooked feet allow one to rest a pen on either side of the letter rack.

From a manufacturing standpoint, this letter holder is simplicity itself.  There is one cast iron piece to design and produce (and two of them are used for each letter rack).  The joinery is simple rods, attached with simple hardware.  And the spring coil is another basic item.  Yet, the durable cast iron manufacturing has allowed this piece to survive in great shape since it was made 138 years ago (in 1886).  When manufacturers spend a little more money producing something to last, any additional investment comes back many-fold in length of service.


"K Diamond" Advertising Cast Iron Letter and Pen Holder (LEO Design)


This letter holder is also an "advertising piece," a popular collecting category of its own (and selling point).  Alas, after much research, I have not, yet, uncovered any history on the "K Diamond" brand.  It is possible that the K Diamond Company commissioned these letter holders for salesmen to leave with purchasing agent customers (or prospective customers).  It was nice, well-made, useful, and a constant reminder of the K Diamond brand.

Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome piece.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248