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Why aren't more Trilobite fossils prepared like these?


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AchillesWF

Hello fellow Trilobite fossils collectors.  I have 2 specimens in my collection that were specifically prepared 'with microfossils'.  So, instead of blasting away everything around the specimen, the preparator took extra efforts to maintain the surrounding 'environment' that the specimen was contained within.  I really like this preparation style, and am wondering why the Trilobite fossils I see for sale on the web, etc are much more likely to be just the specimen itself carved out of the matrix and leaving only scrapes, scratches or smoothed rock nearby.  Does anyone know why there aren't more fossils prepared with surrounding micro fossils?  See images for examples of what I'm talking about.  Thanks!

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It is simply a prep style preference, with seemingly more buyers preferring landscaped matrix to make the trilobite “pop” more.

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AchillesWF

I think the Trilobite still pops in these preparations, but it also can more easily be seen and imagined back in time living its life in the environment.  I hope this style catches on more, as it seems like buyers may only 'prefer' the landscaped matrix because that is almost all there is out there to choose from.  I prefer having the micro fossils myself!  :)

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I’ve done both prep styles, and will opt for the more natural appearance if there are good associations on the matrix… or if I’m being lazy. :D 

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AchillesWF

The descriptions of the items I have with prepared microfossils say it actually takes a lot more work to preserve these details, and I could see why since they all have to be cleaned / exposed well from the matrix along with the main specimen.  So not sure it is laziness, but I am not a preparator (yet) so will see what others say about this.  Thanks for your responses so far everyone.

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Have not seen this style of trilobite preparation before but it’s definitely cool as it retains more of an earthy feel that is more true and natural to the trilobite’s environment! Interesting piece!

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FossilDAWG

I suppose it is likely that more people would prefer the more "landscaped" prep style, but preference involves a choice and I can't say I have ever seen the style that looks more like a trilobite in it's natural environment.  I do like the style shown in these photos!

 

Don

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FranzBernhard

@AchillesWF, are these Moroccan trilobits?

 

I am wondering, if there is usually "something" besides the trilos that are usually found in that hard Moroccan limestone.

 

In other formations, there is often nearly nothing, especially in shale specimens.

 

Franz Bernhard

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Many trilobite sites do not have this association of other bits and pieces.  Typical Utah trilobites for example are often found isolated.   

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In most cases a preparator would preserve anything else interesting in the matrix but the extra time also means the piece would have to cost more money.

 

Trilobites tend to be isolated in the Early Cambrian pieces I've seen from California and Nevada as well.

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In the case of the mass-market Moroccan trilos (and maybe others), I think it comes down to a lot of low-skilled, low-waged workers prepping as much as they can as fast as they can with less-than-ideal equipment, to make a buck (or a dirham or whatever). They are told that collectors are looking for trilobites, which is true on the whole, so they just clear away everything surrounding the trilo. I'm not a preparator but I believe it's much easier just to grind away/sculpt the surrounding rock.

I wish more of them would pay attention to things surrounding the bugs too, and be more careful, but the economics of it all seem to be against us. Maybe if lots of buyers told them we wanted more high-quality prepping with associated fossils intact, like your example, we would see more of them, but we'd probably have to pay a lot more, if we could even persuade them.

I've tried asking Chinese dealers of Cambrian (eg. Chengjiang) material to refrain from butchering their specimens with scalpels(?) but it seems like there is either a miscommunication or they're simply not able to dissuade the field collectors from their quick prepping methods.

Edited by Wrangellian
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MeargleSchmeargl

This is kinda why I love finding things in-situ, like the Chlamys spillmani scallops that I love collecting from the Eocene Tivola Limestone. The matrix the specimen is on provides the context for it, and makes a picture of it in life much more complete. You quite literally have a piece of a long-lost world with in-situ fossils, be it seafloor, forest floor, or any combination of environments.

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My experience is limited but of the dozen or so formations I've worked with only a couple of them have had similar associations, and of those they rarely have this many bits and pieces. 

 

To add some of the potential thought process of a prepper: when I start working on any trilo I hope to expose as much of the fossil as possible, in the best possible condition, and present an aesthetically pleasing piece. Every decision I make while prepping is weighed against those goals. 

 

When I encounter a small fossil on a bug I ask myself "would I rather keep this fossil or see the part of the trilo that's under it?" As for fossils near the trilo, "is it worth the extra time to work around it?"

 

A big concern for me would be landscaping around these fossils. In tight spaces they may prevent you from using a scribe or a Dremel to shape the matrix. In the pieces above it looks to me like an awful lot of abrasion was done around the trilos to expose the microfossils, clear away scribe marks, and shape the rock. Excessive abrasion can risk loss of surface detail on the trilobite, so in some instances the typical landscaping may be the best option to preserve the fine details on the bug without leaving ugly scribe marks all around. 

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