How to Spot Fossil Restoration in 3 Easy Steps.

I think the best place to start is to  learn how one goes about restoring a fossil in the first place. 

I like to call restoration nothing more than putty and paint.   It's so easy that anyone can do it and that is where the problems begin.  Anyone can paint  a picture but very few can do it well enough that you actually want to "buy" their painting.  Even an elephant in Thailand can paint you a picture. 

But we still need some putty. In order to restore a fossil we need some type of material that is going to take the place of the area that was missing in the first place.  Paleosculp is often used in this regard.  It's a two part mix that has the feel and texture of modeling clay.  You mix them together in equal parts and begin to use this material to sculpt the missing area, which gives you a few hours of working time before it begins to harden.  Anyone can do it....but very few can do it well. 

 

 What you need next is pretty basic...a couple paint brushes.

paint brushes

And some paint.

Latex paint

 

And WALA...for less than $100 in supplies you are now a Professional Fossil Restorer.  You don't need any kind of formal education...you don't need a fancy certificate...and you don't even need to be good at it.  Just get yourself some beat up and banged up junky fossils for the lowest prices you can find...start adding some sculpting bond...slap on some paint...and off you go!  The more beat up the tooth is....the cheaper you will be able to buy it...and the more profit you will be able to make.  Sad but true. 

But don't get my wrong...there are a few...and I mean just a few....very talented artist out there that do amazing restoration work and they deserve all the praise I can possibly give them. 

But only half the problem with restoration is the fact that it is being done by people with absolutely no talent whatsoever.  The other half of the problem is that fossils in general often times get traded or resold over and over again for reasons to varied to get into here.  Perhaps collector "A" sales his restored tooth to collector "B" with full disclosure that the fossil was in fact restored. But now collector "B" needs a new radiator and decides to not disclose the restoration to collector "C" in order to get more money.  And now the true identity of this restored fossil is lost and traded or resold over and over again....until someone spots it.  And the cycle potentially repeats itself over and over again...with thousands of restored fossils in the market place.  

But enough of that...let's see if we can figure out how to spot restoration.

Step 1)  Just look at the tooth.  As mentioned above, 95% of Restoration out there is pure garbage and can easily be spotted by a 5 year old.  In the end..the tooth has to be painted and even the most skilled artist has a very hard time matching up paint to what mother nature has created.  

A good rule of thumb for restoration is "you should be able to hold the tooth or other fossil out in front of you at arms length and NOT notice the restoration."

Step 2) View the suspected area under a microscope. 

Microscope

The microscope above will do the trick and is very inexpensive. You absolutely do NOT need some fancy expensive microscope to get the job done. I see the above on Amazon for around $10 with free shipping, and I would put a link here but I don't want anyone thinking I am trying to make .03 cents per microscope and therefore this blog post is a money grab.   These are about the size of your thumb and for some people with bad eyes you might just want to go with a larger magnifying glass.  Both will do the trick. You will be very surprised how much you can see with a cheap little microscope like this.  

What you are looking for is paint and/or paint strokes.  What will that look like you ask?  You will notice it when you see it.  Real enamel has depth to it and paint....well paint simply lays on top of a surface.  But you do need to put this tiny scope directly on the object.  Don't try to hold it 6 inches or even 1 inch away from the suspected area.  You need to be touching the end of those scope onto the area.  

And you don't need to be an expert or really even have any experience at all looking for restoration.  As soon as you see paint...you will have an "Ahh...Haa" moment.  If you see paint...you can stop here.  If you just aren't sure what you are seeing then go onto the next step.

Step 3) Acetone and a paper towel - super high tech.

Acetone

Megalodon_Towels

Acetone can be picked up at just about an hardware store or Walmart. 

This next step is very important.  YOU WANT TO START OFF WITH JUST A DAB OF ACETONE.  And the reason I say this is because if you do find undisclosed restoration and you want to return the tooth and get your money back, the seller might say you ruined the tooth if you go rubbing all the paint off of it.  So start off small.  You won't need much.  You aren't looking to expose all of the restorers work. Your just looking to get enough paint on the paper towel to confirm there is paint on the tooth.  No Natural tooth comes with paint.  Only a restored tooth. So you only need the smallest amount to show up on your paper towel for confirmation.

Acetone is nothing more than paint thinner (remover).  Just put a small dab on the paper towel and lightly...LIGHTLY I SAID...go over the area of the tooth in question.  Acetone will do NOTHING to a 100% Natural fossil.  So you do not need to fear ruining a perfectly good tooth. You could soak a natural tooth in Acetone overnight and pull it out the next day and it would have done nothing to the tooth. 

If you see paint on the paper towel....bingo...you have a restored tooth! If you see no paint...you can put a little more acetone and rub a little harder.  If still nothing than the tooth is Natural.  

And on a side note, the serrations are a good place to start when viewing a restored tooth online. Very few artist can do good work when it comes to the serrations.  In fact, terrible restorers are so sloppy and lazy that they will restore  one whole side of the blade and not even bother to put any serrations on it.  Why?  They either don't know how...or they feel it is to time consuming and they just want to "pump and dump" these fossils out the door.   This is a sure sign of terrible restoration work.  

I hope this blog post has been helpful.  Feel free to comment below if you have any added tips or tricks to spotting restoration work.  I didn't mention using a black light because in many cases it is useless.  Just depends on the material they used to restore the tooth with and the paint they are using as well. 

 

Comments

8 comments

Chris Borjahit

Chris Borjahit

Very Interesting article. It Helps me to spot a restored tooth. Good job !

Bob Hallett

Bob Hallett

I like what Louis has to say in his 2 comments concerning fossil restoration, right on point. Most notably, his comment about “restoration” vs. “repair”. In my opinion, I find nothing at all wrong with repairing a tooth that maybe had been broken by a bulldozer, or dropped and a chunk of the root broke off. A couple of very carefully placed drops of crazy or super glue can get the fossil right back to where it was. Again, I would always disclose this repair to anyone that you would possibly sell it to. Let them decide how much that affects the value. I have found a couple teeth like this on sites, a hubble meg and a great white, both split right down the middle, and now both “two-piecers” look awesome in my frame, and as far as the foreseeable future is concerned, that is where they will stay. Just as they looked before the front end loader blasted ‘em. I do have one thing to add about spotting resto’s. I find that the area of the fossil that might get your attention is where the resto meets the natural tooth. This is tough to blend in seamlessly when restoring a tooth. Whether it be on the root or the enamel, if something doesn’t quite look right, maybe the colors look a little off, or there is an inconsistency in the smoothness of the tooth, use Garry’s tactics to verify that the tooth is unaltered. Now, many many, many unaltered teeth will also show these characteristics, but if your gut says “check it out”, then do it. Best to be wary now, than sorry later. :)

Havitt Juvah

Havitt Juvah

Very good !! You did a great job to share your knowledge about the restoration.

More blessings and God bless you.

Brayan Collins

Brayan Collins

Very helpful informations, I know some sellers wont tell me if the tooth is restored, but now I know how to know it for sure.
Thanks.. I read your previous blog, I learn so many things that I didn’t know before. New collector like me, needs this info so my collections is worth it.

Jack Boyce

Jack Boyce

Garry, I think that this is excellent guidance. Most fossil forgeries are poorly done and , for Megs, the serrations and enamel reflection are most difficult to recreate. This gets rid of most restored megs on the market.
The other aspect is understand people and psychology. 1) WHO is selling this Meg? Someone in the business of selling high quality Megs and has been doing it as their primary business for years? That is not someone you should suspect of a) not recognizing a restored Meg or b) being willing to sell one. A second situation is someone who does not collect Megs themselves but is trying to make a living by finding underpriced Megs and sell them for a profit quickly. You may not get an answer but it is always good to ask where they obtained the Meg. Be especially concerned if something looks too good to be true. Finally , remember that restoring Megs may be done to make money. Be more wary with larger Megs.
2) Who is buying this Meg. If you are a dealer who buys/sells Megs as a business, I am comfortable that you can recognize restorations. If you are a collector like me, you buy but you rarely sell. I have a size and price range for Megs. My preferred collection is high quality 3 inch Megs. It is about the top end of what I can afford. I can tell when something looks a little odd and over the years, I have cultivated relationships with a couple of Megalodon/Artifact dealers. Just text a photo and ask what they think.

Another aspect is why restore . I’m am blessed to live where I can hunt fossils, Megs, artifacts and know a lot of others who do.. Once in a while , I find something that is beautiful and rare, but flawed. One thing to realize is that a 3 inch perfect Meg that I find is worth at least twice as much as a 3 inch perfect Meg that I buy. Most but not all fossil hunters I know are like that…
There are artists out there who can restore Megs or Artifacts such that no one but a professional can tell. I know, I have used them.
If I were thinking parting with $1000 or $2000 for a fossil, I would find someone like Garry to bless it first. Jack

franck messain

franck messain

Hi Garry,
I read with interest the blog on the restoration, because as my budjet does not allow me to buy teeth as much as I would like, I want to be sure that the ones I buy are of good quality.
For now I buy teeth only to Mr. Garry Dye !! So no problem of quality!
Franck from France

Louis Stieffel

Louis Stieffel

This is a very helpful article. With more restored fossils in the marketplace all the time, it’s good to know how to spot them.
I would like to add, however, that many fossils are SAVED, by repair. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to repair a broken fossil, as long as it does not change what it is or it’s natural shape. A simple re-glueing is not the same as fabricating a whole fossil out of a broken one. A repair is simply fixing one that has broken.
It’s up to the collector to decide if they only want 100% unrepaired fossils, but oftentimes the repaired one may the only one available, or affordable.
However, a restored fossil may be something you should try to not have in your collection, as it is usually an attempt to deceive.

Brett

Brett

Thanks for the info. It was helpful.

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