A quick guide to identifying fake trilobites!
Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Finest detail, top quality prepared trilobites, prepared in-detail by experts in Morocco or in EU, USA..., are mostly authentic and natural - usually just cracks glued where the rock was split or minor restoraton to missing parts. In detail prepared trilobites! All trilobites sold in trilobiti.com are 100% authentic and if restored, restoration disclosed exactly, with step by step preparation photos of each specimen also always available. What about the rest?
On the other hand, often seen cheaply sold massacred Moroccan trilobite specimens, sold by many resellers online or at fossil shows, usually have "issues". Some species are more often fake than other, but it could be concluded that fakes of Moroccan trilobites are generally not problematic for serious trilobite collectors and are easily examined, so not confusing for science, nor collectors, except for beginners! Price is never a proof of authenticity, but you usually get what you pay for.
Although often described with superlatives as "rare", "superb", "fantastico", "in perfetto stato", "nice" in shops online... Are in reality: common, butchered, destroyed, fake, heavily restored and partial remains... And often not cheap at all, often not even cheap compared to better quality! All usually offered by your typical ebay listing and non-professional resellers!
For example! How a real Dicranurus trilobite looks:
And a total 100% fake Dicranurus from non-professional resellers:
Spines or hornes prepared flying are not a sign of fakery, but in most cases of massacred quick prepared trilobites, be careful!
1. rule: If the preparator did not preserve the finest details (check the eyes, tubercles, pores, etc. etc. - all fine skin details of each specific specie) and the spines are prepared flying, chances are: composition or total fake...
2. rule: Check the matrix and cracks running through the trilobite. All devonian trilobites are found splitting matrix and parts often need to be glued together.
3. rule: Random scratches all around the trilobite on the matrix are not a sign of fakery, nor proof of authenticity. Scratches like that are sometimes added to hide signs of fakery, but can also just mean preparator didn't spend time to landscape the matrix. See how nicely the matrix is shaped in 2. photo above and 3. photo below - total fakes and no scratches!
4. rule: "Pochi soldi, poca musica"! I'm sure you know it one way or the other. When you buy fossils, price alone does not make a bargain or a good deal. It does not guarantee authenticity either, but if in example a Dicranurus like looking trilobite costs 150 euro or 20 euro or if a Scutellum like looking trilobite is sold for 15 euro or a Phacopsid or Hollardops like looking trilobite costs 3 or 5 euro... Be carefull or expect a cast!
5. rule: Check the details of each specimen, eyes especially, because some details are not easy to fake fast and cheap. Check for resin bubbles, holes in matrix and in the skin of the fossil. You could also check with UV light, but acrylic colors don't fluorescence in UV. Best way to check for restorations or fakes is to check details with high magnification. If you are familiar with the morphology of the species, most Moroccan fakes are easy to spot.
6. rule: buy from reputable dealers or ask for step by step preparation photo showing the prep-process...
An example of a fake Scutellid trilobite:
A real one to compare:
Some more often seen fakes:
A real Drotops to compare:
100% fake Drotops:
What next? More fakes:
The quality of fakes varies a little, some are better and some terrible, but mostly all easy to spot for experienced fossil collectors, that's why most of these sold cheap by mineral sellers...
So, what makes trilobiti.com different from majority of other sellers? In commercial preparation, quality is unfortunately often sacrificed for quantity! But the 1. rule in trilobiti.com is: 100% authentic and fine preparation quality only, because quality matters!
The difference behind a quick commercially prepared specimen and a slow more scientific approach in preparation, avoiding mistakes and preserving all details in preparation, is like night and day! Often also doesn't pay off the additional prep time and effort in case of common very affordably priced trilobites. Therefore in the case of quick commercially prepared trilobites in Morocco, mistakes in the process of quick commercial preparation are often masked or specimens massacred, damaged spines reconstructed, missing librigenia or segments restored, compositions, scribe-damage to the fossil painted over... And all such specimens sold under-valued...
Fake Ceratarges trilobite:
How preparation of a real Ceratarges looks, no fake parts...takes time:
Ceratarges aries sp. nov. in above photo prepared, 100% authentic:
Another authentic, different species of Ceratarges, Ceratarges ziregensis trilobite:
You always get what you pay for!
Trust me, 100% authentic and in-detail prepared trilobites by Moroccan experts are not sold for 10, 30 or 20 euro or in any way cheap even by Moroccan sellers. No professional Moroccan preparator/seller will sell you a 100% authentic detailed prepared spiny trilobite for i.e. 100 euro, but to understand why cheaply sold fossils/trilobites are usually fake and why good prepared authentic fossils cost more, you need to understand the efforts behind finding each fossil and the story behind the preparation of each fossil.
A fake Hollardops trilobite:
For comparison, a real Hollardops trilobite:
A fake Barrandeops trilobite:
A real, 100% authentic Barrandeops trilobite for comparison:
An example of a fake Zlichovaspis trilobite:
An example of 100% authentic Zlichovaspis trilobite, close-up:
An example of a fake Crotalocephalina trilobite:
An example of 100% authentic Crotalocephalus (not the same species as Crotalocephalina gibbus) trilobite:
Box of different fakes:
What should also be noted, but is often not... Most Moroccan experts, preparators and sellers are just as professional (if not better) as professionals in EU, USA, Asia, Russia! And Moroccan fossil diggers, sellers and fossil-preparators are underrated!
Most people don't understand, don't know the difficult work that Moroccan (and other) diggers, and sellers, and fossil-preparators do to get by. And some people don't understand how good they are doing it! Some people are just interested in the cheapest price, buy a fake and then complain...
Not all trilobites prepared in Morocco are fake or massacred, that's a stereotype! Morocco is well known as the country of fakes, but majority of fossils from Morocco are authentic, although prepared commercially, you just need to know what to look for. Not all trilobites prepared in Morocco are fake, in this post however - to share knowledge, a small selection of only fakes (and authentic specimens in comparison) are introduced on photos.
Most fakes in fossil-mineral shows are easy to spot even from a distance, just as you can sometimes spot the real deal from a distance. In example, here is the display of one of the best (and well known) Moroccan preparator and seller, very professional:
Were you "suckered" into buying fake trilobites?
If you purchased a fake Moroccan trilobite from the internet, it's most likely you were suckered by resellers in USA or EU, who often deliberately and knowingly resell fakes online, usually purchased very cheap from some non-professional Moroccan resellers at fossil shows. Non-professional distribution...
There are well-known manufacturers in Morocco who produce fake trilobites. Fossil dealers, who buy locally, know these workshops. Moroccan manufacturers do not hide their production methods, and portray their product as replicas, sold very cheap. It is thus easy to say that some fossil dealers and exporters, who go to Morocco to buy trilobites or bring fakes to shows, are well aware that those trilobites from these sources are not real (easy to guess, when it costs 10, 5 or 3 euro only)! Thus, the fraud occurs through dealers/resellers, who knowingly purchase full boxes of these replicas cheaply, and subsequently dump them on the market without full disclosure. The problem is that reselling fossil fakery is more profitable as spending money or time and effort to find and prep and resell authentic and in-detailed prepared fossils.