I have to bottles of Lamy blue-black fountain pen ink. It turns out that some months ago the composition of the ink was changed by the manufacturer and there is no difference in the package. Before, this ink used to contain Iron-Gall. Which makes the ink more permanent (old inks contained most of the times Iron-Gall). As Iron-Gall is an oxidizer, it has been removed from the ink because it can damage the pens if not cleaned regularly.

I don't know much about chemistry and I wonder if any of you could tell me a way to know if my ink has Iron-Gall and therefore is safe for long lifespan documents. I was wondering if litmus paper would do the trick comparing this ink with normal black ink (which does not have Iron-Gall).

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    $\begingroup$ I have searched about it a lot but can only find this preservationequipment.com/Store/Products/Conservation-Materials/… . $\endgroup$
    – ashu
    Jul 9, 2013 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I tried with litmus paper comparing three inks. 1.Non Iron-Gall Ink 2.Iron-Gall Ink 3.The ink I don't know if it has Iron-Gall or not. The result is that blue litmus paper turned red only for the second ink. So I guess the dubious ink weather has not Iron-Gall or has little quantity. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2013 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


A simple and efficient method for the analysis and comparison of inks is thin layer chromatography (TLC).

In order to separate the various carboxylic and phenolic compounds that may be contained in iron gall ink, the mobile phase should be a polar solvent (e.g. ethyl acetate) or solvent mixture and made acidic (e.g. by adding formic acid).

The coloured spots can be compared under normal lighting; other spots may be detected under UV light. The phenolic compounds may be made visible by spraying with $\ce{FeCl3}$ solution.


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