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I don't buy many fossils and most that I have bought, or that have been bought for me, were from gift shops and the like when I first started collecting. However, for my birthday a couple of years back, my wife surprised me with this plate of a pair of Russian trilobites. They are Asaphus Intermedius and Asaphus Punctatus. I was overjoyed! From my meager knowledge at the time, I thought that they were completely real. I knew to look out for fakes (i.e. carvings, plaster/resin cast, etc.), or heavily composite specimens from other areas, and since these came from Russia, I thought I was in the clear. My wife also spoke to the seller, and from my understanding, they were very helpful and seemed sincere. They also disclosed that some of their specimens do have a little restoration/repair work, such as the crack on the back of my plate and had a money back guarantee. 

 

Fast forward a couple of years...

With my birthday coming up and me working on setting up a new display cabinet I got to thinking about this plate of trilobites. Then I remembered that these were from Russia, and that I read somewhere that things coming from there tend to be heavily restored with resin and the like. I have also read that you can tell by using a UV light (black light) to shine on them and any resin used will glow. I don't have one handy, but will pick one up the next time I'm out to test with.

 

So I wanted to poll the community and see what people thought. Are these real? Fake? Heavily restored? I just realized that I didn't include some form of measurement or something for scale in the pics... :DOH:    Each trilobite is roughly 3.5 inches long x 2 inches wide (9 cm x 5cm). The whole plate is 5 inches x 6 inches (12.5cm x 15cm).

Front view:

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Back View: Notice the glued crack...

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Side Views:

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Possible restored area on pygidium? Appears to be a slightly different shade than rest of trilobite. Resin?

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I can provide more pics if needed. And include a scale. :)

 

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Fossildude19

They look real to me.  :) 
Not sure they were found associated, though. 

I think they look really good, but I am admittedly not up on Russian Trilobite restoration.

There may have been some restoration, but not horribly obvious, from what I can tell. 

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Look natural. Be carefull with trilobites eyes . Many eyes  get repair. I dont think here use composite or clay (I dont hear) but u can easy get frankentrilobite. 

On photo I worry for this moment - but it can be just broken and restauration. Lets see what can say other people. But for me they look nice :) Enought expensive if buy in Russia.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Fossildude19 said:

They look real to me.  :) 
Not sure they were found associated, though. 

I think they look really good, but I am admittedly not up on Russian Trilobite restoration.

There may have been some restoration, but not horribly obvious, from what I can tell. 

Thanks! I thought they looked good too, but wanted to get some second eyes on it. I may have just worked myself up for no reason. Like a fossil hypochondriac! Lol 

I was wondering if they were found associated or not. It looks to me like one of them may have been added. As if the rock right around it is a little different than the rest. I see it the best in the original picture with the red circle.

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2 hours ago, MiseriKing said:

Look natural. Be carefull with trilobites eyes . Many eyes  get repair. I dont think here use composite or clay (I dont hear) but u can easy get frankentrilobite. 

On photo I worry for this moment - but it can be just broken and restauration. Lets see what can say other people. But for me they look nice :) Enought expensive if buy in Russia.

Thanks for the advice. I too am concerned about the eyes. They are my favorite part! I see the crack you circled. Hopefully, at the most, it’s a broken and repaired piece. I don’t mind a little restoration either, but wouldn’t be fond of a frankentrilobite. 

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On 6/18/2019 at 4:31 PM, Fossildude19 said:

They look real to me.  :) 
Not sure they were found associated, though. 

I think they look really good, but I am admittedly not up on Russian Trilobite restoration.

There may have been some restoration, but not horribly obvious, from what I can tell. 

I would agree they are both nice trilos. Most Russian bugs do have some shell restoration though, it's not uncommon. Its hard to tell the level of resto yours has without nice bright light and some magnification, but for sure has some. Some of the stalk eye and longer spiney specimens will have the eyes or spines intentionally split and re-worked on the piece. I would also agree the association is probably not authentic though. Another unfortunate practice is to remove the bug from its original rock, and sculpting it onto another (typically done with association pieces for higher value). 

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3 hours ago, Jackson g said:

I would agree they are both nice trilos. Most Russian bugs do have some shell restoration though, it's not uncommon. Its hard to tell the level of resto yours has without nice bright light and some magnification, but for sure has some. Some of the stalk eye and longer spiney specimens will have the eyes or spines intentionally split and re-worked on the piece. I would also agree the association is probably not authentic though. Another unfortunate practice is to remove the bug from its original rock, and sculpting it onto another (typically done with association pieces for higher value). 

Thanks! I can handle a little restoration. Really glad everyone isn’t telling me they are completely fake or junk.

I also agree that they were probably not originally associated now that  people are pointing it out. If I look closely, it does seem that they may have been from two different rocks. Plus nature doesn’t typically put two very similar species so perfectly together. That was one thing that really had me worried. Two good looking specimens laid out so well. One of those this is too good to be true moments. :unsure:

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Another major point would be that A. punctatus occurs stratigraphically beneath A. intermedius (see Ivantsov, 2003) at the Aseri horizon, so would not be associated on the same bedding plane. 

 

Fabricating an association like this one with Russian asaphids is relatively easy given the thickness and robustness of the shell in many cases. For a seasoned preparator, all the matrix around the trilobite can easily be removed, leaving just the trilobite with matrix beneath the shell, at which point grafting the entire trilobite on a landscaped bloc is as easy as using some glue. 

 

Just to give a sense of just how sturdy these bugs can be, here is one from my collection with visible hypostome. The second image is of an A. lepidurus I was prepping (incomplete in this photo), where removal of the matrix you can see from the top would be very easy while maintaining the integrity of the shell. 

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52 minutes ago, Kane said:

Another major point would be that A. punctatus occurs stratigraphically beneath A. intermedius (see Ivantsov, 2003) at the Aseri horizon, so would not be associated on the same bedding plane.

 

Thanks for the insight Kane! I didn’t even realize they wouldn’t be found on the same plane stratigraphically! 

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@Kane Is for sure the man to ask about Russian bugs. Somehow I stumbled across your blog the other day, very impressive work!

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59 minutes ago, Jackson g said:

@Kane Is for sure the man to ask about Russian bugs. Somehow I stumbled across your blog the other day, very impressive work!

Thanks! :) It's just enough presence without the social media, with the other benefit that curious students can see that I don't just go into stasis when the semester ends. :D 

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Fabricating an association like this one with Russian asaphids is relatively easy given the thickness and robustness of the shell in many cases. For a seasoned preparator, all the matrix around the trilobite can easily be removed, leaving just the trilobite with matrix beneath the shell, at which point grafting the entire trilobite on a landscaped bloc is as easy as using some glue. 

 

Just to give a sense of just how sturdy these bugs can be, here is one from my collection with visible hypostome. The second image is of an A. lepidurus I was prepping (incomplete in this photo), where removal of the matrix you can see from the top would be very easy while maintaining the integrity of the shell. 

 

Many Russian trilobites are found upside down or in a small matrix or almost isolated, then transplanted into a nicer looking matrix piece. Not only in associations like this. Not all, but you better ask, if description states "some resto on matrix" or you are not sure. Does it matter if you are buying a single display piece? I doubt it, you probably don't buy russian trilobites for scientific reasons... Of course, it matters, in case of compositions of 2 or more trilobites, especially if stratigrafcally incorrect. Just like it matters in Moroccan pizza compositions. ;)

 

But it's not a question of removing a specimen from matrix, or how easy it is, it's a question of how the specimen was found. Most collectors prefer (pay more for) a trilobite in matrix to isolated piece. For a professional preparator like many Russian trilobite preparators and the right specimen, it's just about as easy (easy to remove, not so easy to put back without an experienced collector to notice the work done from far away) to do this with other bugs in a similar matrix (not only Asaphus with robust shell, also spiny species). This can be/is done with USA shale bugs too - doesn't really pay of to do this type of prep for a common NY Eldredgeops roller, but for more commercialy interesting species it's just as easy, perhaps even easier to prep out, but usually nobody tells you. Isotelus or in example, Arctinurus are also often found upside down and flipped over on a nice block of matrix. It's done for commercial aesthetic reasons! 

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Pumpkinhead

To my eye cracks on the fossils can indicate that they are at least mostly genuine. Although I am not terribly familiar with the trilobite industry in Russia, I know that elsewhere fossils are typically extracted via hammer. It is impossible to avoid cracking the fossil with this method, so cracks may be indicative of having a mostly genuine trilobite. That being said, I'm sure that you could fake that too, and if fossils are cut out instead of hammered damage can be avoided.

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There wasn't as much of a trilobite industry there prior to the late 1990s / early 2000s when more Russian trilobites were starting to appear at fossil shows and garnering collector interest. A minority of finders and preparators began compositing bizarre franken-pieces, some of which were introduced as new species (!). The abundance of partials also tempted some to graft missing parts on other near-complete or half-complete specimens. The preservation of asaphids there compared to localities here in Canada is a bit better on account of deposition and other factors. That being said, fractures, compression damage, missing bits, shell discolouration, slight disarticulation, and distortion are to be expected. The ones I get for preparation are encased in larger blocs of matrix, and I've been relatively lucky so far that they've come out fairly robust and complete (and dorsally oriented :D). 

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2 hours ago, Pumpkinhead said:

To my eye cracks on the fossils can indicate that they are at least mostly genuine. Although I am not terribly familiar with the trilobite industry in Russia, I know that elsewhere fossils are typically extracted via hammer. It is impossible to avoid cracking the fossil with this method, so cracks may be indicative of having a mostly genuine trilobite. That being said, I'm sure that you could fake that too, and if fossils are cut out instead of hammered damage can be avoided.

 

Exactly! Only way to find many trilobites is to break rock with a hammer, then glue and prep. As I often say, trilobites are not megalodon teeth you would just pick up and wash. 

 

Problem with eye cracks (or other cracks as someone mentioned) is often no problem at all, in many cases just an eye (or other part) broken or split when trilobite was found or when appendages break during prep and are glued back (a normal thing for trilobite collector or a preparator, but perhaps a terrible flaw for some megalodon teeth collectors?)... But there are known cases of "donor parts" and frankenstein compositions as Kane noted, so perhaps that's what some collectors worry about. Not the case of all, most likely if you have any russian trilobites, you have the real thing. There are a few known cases of Asaphus kowalewskii (among other species where spines, pygidium, librigenia etc are donor parts or examples of eyes and spines totally fabricated) where eyes of different specimens were used to make a partial bug complete - however you don't see a clean crack when such part or eye is restored or transfered... 

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Pumpkinhead
9 minutes ago, aeon.rocks said:

 

Exactly! Only way to find many trilobites is to break rock with a hammer, then glue and prep. As I often say, trilobites are not megalodon teeth you would just pick up and wash. 

 

Problem with eye cracks (or other cracks as someone mentioned) is often no problem at all, in many cases just an eye (or other part) broken or split when trilobite was found or when appendages break during prep and are glued back (a normal thing for trilobite collector or a preparator, but perhaps a terrible flaw for some megalodon teeth collectors?)... But there are known cases of "donor parts" and frankenstein compositions as Kane noted, so perhaps that's what some collectors worry about. There are a few known cases of Asaphus kowalewskii where eyes of different specimens were used - however you don't see a clean crack when eye is restored or transfered... 

 

In addition, cracks resulting from hammering will extend into the matrix, providing further proof of authenticity. However, as Kane pointed out, in this case at least one trilobite has been grafted onto the matrix, leaving that clue of limited use here.

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Pumpkinhead
22 minutes ago, Kane said:

There wasn't as much of a trilobite industry there prior to the late 1990s / early 2000s when more Russian trilobites were starting to appear at fossil shows and garnering collector interest. A minority of finders and preparators began compositing bizarre franken-pieces, some of which were introduced as new species (!). The abundance of partials also tempted some to graft missing parts on other near-complete or half-complete specimens. The preservation of asaphids there compared to localities here in Canada is a bit better on account of deposition and other factors. That being said, fractures, compression damage, missing bits, shell discolouration, slight disarticulation, and distortion are to be expected. The ones I get for preparation are encased in larger blocs of matrix, and I've been relatively lucky so far that they've come out fairly robust and complete (and dorsally oriented :D). 

My favourite frankentrilobite is this one case I recall where someone had taken a pair of schizochroal eyes and grafted them onto some sort of non phacopinid trilobite. I remember suspecting that the trilobite was likely a lichid, but I cannot find the picture

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1 minute ago, Pumpkinhead said:

 

In addition, cracks resulting from hammering will extend into the matrix, providing further proof of authenticity. However, as Kane pointed out, in this case at least one trilobite has been grafted onto the matrix, leaving that clue of limited use here.

 

Not always. Sometimes there are stress cracks on skin/shell which don't extend on matrix, or in example if you break a spine or an eye during prep... 

Appendages often break easily in prep, transport, unless carefully preped or packed, and even then stuff happens. A good way to check authenticity is with UV and microscope. But often still tricky, beacues it all depends on the prep job. For example, here are A. kowaleeskii eyes (web pics): 56600022_430074001086283_1609317210371368915_n.thumb.jpg.110e39f2fc2a1942bf0b98634350c406.jpgimg-4459.thumb.jpg.925e4289e93fcd872c53e4bfec2a30fb.jpg5d0d2c43c90ec_Screenshot2019-06-21at21_01_37.thumb.png.8feb5f8357ce191e1bceaa5f3148cb3f.png

 

whats real?

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Sometimes impossible to say from pics, but my guess, eyes on the first pic are a candidate for donor part. 

 

Eyes in the second pic are real, but if you try to glue something like this back in place, you can understand why every preparator hates doing it. A. kowalewskii eyes are kind off robust, compared to some spines, so to glue the stalks back in place is very easy compared to some tiny or long spines, but still a good example that it's not so easy to glue back in place perfectly, so often you can see a wide crack (like in the third pic) even when job is done right.

 

Third pic you can see all facial suture lines continue, except in parts where eyes were reattached and stalks restored, difficult to say however, perhaps these were just broken and reattached, but it's possible to do a transfer this good too (right eye stalk is a good candidate for donor part, especially).

 

I guess you can see the glued/restored parts on pics above, will mark otherwise. 

 

Here's unrestored one for comparison, easy to see facial suture lines without disruptions:5.thumb.JPG.242434ea52bbf0993e354ad93e68eb96.JPG

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@Kane @aeon.rocks @Pumpkinhead

 

Wow! Thanks for all the information and comments! :) 

 

Glad to know mine seem pretty authentic. Except for the one being grafted into the matrix. I’d prefer to have them separate, since they are not normally associated together, but there are worse things and I can handle it. I don’t mind cracks and broken/glued pieces from things happening during the removal/transport/prep of the trilobite. That makes sense as those processes are not always delicate.  

 

I was mainly concerned with them being  overly restored with resin and the like or being Franken-trilos as was mentioned. A little bit of “normal” broken and glued pieces are ok and understandable. 

 

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