The Darwin “De Luxe” or “DeLuxe” razor is a double-edged safety razor that owes its name to its fine finish, elegant presentation and the purity of the material used to make it. The design of the Darwin DeLuxe razor is broadly the same as that of the Darwin Standard, but the DeLuxe stands out from the others thanks to a number of small details. It was manufactured from 1925 until the end of the 1930s or beginning of 1940s, when the factory was bombed and the brand disappeared for a while. Back then, having a stainless steel razor was already an achievement in itself. But having a cobalt razor, now that was another step further. The original vintage Darwin DeLuxe razor was so beautiful, and so strongly built, that we can still find some fine examples today.
The Darwin “DeLuxe” safety razor that we will present here is not to be confused with the hoe-type razor carrying the same name. Surely they meant to use this to describe a range, a level of greatness in their different models, rather than just one model. Nowadays, with the advent of forums and collectors doing their research with so few information, the “DeLuxe” name stuck to the double-edge razor only. And we decided to go with it.
The Darwin DeLuxe in cobalt-chrome steel
The Darwin “DeLuxe” razor is generally made from cobalt steel. This is one of the features that has made it a real Holy Grail for collectors. The Darwin “DeLuxe” razor is very similar in design to its brother, the Darwin “Standard”. It has a faceted handle and a straight-guard head with toothed bars. Visually, the big difference is the blade centring pins. These are located on the guard plate and protrude through the cap that covers the blade. From a more technical point of view, there is also a slight geometric difference in the curvature of the blade.
Cobalt steel, also known as cobaltchrom steel or chromium cobalt, is so hard that it had to be worked by hand, over long hours. The shapes of a Darwin razor are not always equal, not always symmetrical. This is due to the very hard manual work on a very hard material.
The photo opposite shows two Darwin DeLuxe razors. The one on the right is much deeper, both in the handle and in the teeth of the head.
The cobalt steel used to make the Darwin “DeLuxe” razor was a variant of stainless steel, which contained a certain amount of cobalt and chromium in its composition. The result gives the razor a cooler, whiter, harder shine. Like diamond, cobalt steel is very hard but not so resistant to impact. This is why older DeLuxe razors can now be found cracked, something that generally doesn’t happen to other models. Once again, like diamonds, if you take care of it, its brilliance is incomparable, and its longevity is immense.
In advertising at the time, the razor was described as “practically indestructible”. It was also claimed to be impossible to tarnish or rust, which is true enough. The few spots it may have on its mirror surface can be removed by fine polishing.
In the hand, you can also feel a slight difference from standard stainless steel: it is said to be cooler to the touch, but it is also, and above all, a little heavier.
How can I recognize a true Darwin DeLuxe ?
To find out if your Darwin razor is a DeLuxe model made of cobalt steel, try the magnet test. If the metal parts of your razor are attracted to a magnet, they contain cobalt steel. And thus, they can only come from a DeLuxe model.
To find out more, take a look at our page dedicated to comparing the different vintage Darwin safety razors:
Note that Darwin DeLuxe shavers with cobalt heads and regular stainless steel handles also come up from time to time. There are several possible explanations for this:
- the cobalt was perhaps too hard to work and the factory decided to produce only the heads from some point on;
- when production stopped with the war, they had to sell mismatched sets;
- A shortage of raw materials or a machine breakdown or an ill skilled-worker prevented them from making cobalt handles and forced them to mismatch razors.
- other unknown explanations… You have one in mind ? Please share your thoughts!
The Darwin DeLuxe case and overall presentation
The Darwin DeLuxe razor was presented in a sheath case that can only be described as luxurious, the “De Luxe” name wasn’t a lie. The outside is camel-coloured leather, the lining is satin silk for the lid and velvet for the base. There are some very slight variations in the colour of the fabrics, but these are either variations that occur naturally in batches of fabrics made at the time, or discolouration due to ageing (moonlight, sunlight, humidity, etc.).
The box is embellished with a few gold decorations. The underlined logo in the lid, of course, but also a border that runs around the edges of the lower part, and around the outside of the lid. This gilding draws a simple geometric frieze, but it was originally a border of leaves.
The leather flap, with its press stud fastening, is topped with hot stamping that reads “British Made”.
Its trapezoidal shape is generally known as a “coffin”, and is very unusual. Its domed lid, shape, materials and finish make this a truly luxury item.
The blade bank
The blade bank, which can only be found in this type of case (the Bijou also has an adapted version), is made of imitation tortoiseshell plastic. It was almost certainly made of cellulose acetate.
There have been two versions of this box over the years:
- a moulded version, with two identical halves glued together.
- a three-part version: two flat sheets, and a strip to create the thickness that joins the two sheets.
The most common is the second version. We don’t know which was produced before the other, or why exactly there were two versions.