Faked fossils in Amber

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Fakes and Frauds with Amber Fossils


I have been prompted to write this guide by the amount of transparently faked fossils in amber listed on E-bay. Much of what follows is common-sense but I hope it may still be useful. Some genuine pieces may fit one of the criteria - it is the combination that you have to look for.

Excessive size
Amber is made from tree-sap - it stands to reason that it is rare for a tree to be able to produce enough to form a piece of amber 6 - 7 inches across.

Excessive regularity
A perfectly oval piece of amber is thus also a bad sign for a genuine fossil.

Lack of any other inclusions in the amber
Almost all genuine amber with fossil insects will have various bits of plant debris as well. The amber will probably have a "textured" rather than totally transparent and smoothe interior. Remember the drama took place in a forest; how likely is it an enormous insect got trapped in this huge pool of resin but not a single leaf fragment drifted down to obscure the clarity of the view of this mighty insect?

Animal flat and perfectly positioned
In the position the creature would be if carefully laid out, rather than subject to chance and struggle.

Rare animals
Anything preserved in amber has to be:
a) reasonably likely to be found on a conifer tree
b) Weak enough to be overpowered by the sticky resin, or else dropped on to it after death. It is thus rare to find a frog, mouse or scorpion in amber. It is not impossible, but this leads us to our next factor.

Ridiculously cheap price
If a humble fly sells for over £20, why would your "genuine" scorpion be a Buy It Now for under a pound?
We all know the answer to that one and this leads us to my next warning.

One seller with dozens of virtually identical insects
And all of them sold suspiciously cheaply. Check out what else your seller is selling.

Sellers direct from abroad
Please see the wonderful guide by Triassica "Fossils from China - Look out for fakes"

Vague descriptions
With a lot about the "miracle of amber" but nothing about the species for sale or how it differs from the dozens of others offered by the seller.

In a nutshell, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is - above is one example of identical dozens demonstrating all the characteristics I'm warning of. And the price? 86p. Bargain!




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