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 From Renate

16th February 07

Being a collector of bow brooches / fibulae for almost 3 years, and suddenly one of my pieces looked strange. That led me to more research and to a big bunch of questions. I'm hoping for some solid information to learn more. Even a simple `yes' or `no' will help.

a) A few weeks ago I purchased a roman dual dolphin brooch in 3D, not
on eBay. It was my first zoomorphic brooch since I was not interested
in them at all before. I didn't even visit Glenn's and Bron's brooch
fake sites too often, because I missed bow brooches there.


Looking on eBay I saw brooches that have the same shape as mine has,  but all were longer soaked in whatever. Mine is black, has a smooth surface and some green patina. After dropping acetone on the back side, some patina came off.


Comparing this one to my genuine pieces, the patina and the whole surface looks too smooth, and the patina looks like it's on the surface, not within. I'm now sure this is a copy. 


What's your opinion, please?



     From Shawn

17th Feb 07

I do not like the dolphin brooch one bit. First it is a very rare type yet there have been a great many for sale for the last year or so all identical to yours and the legion 8 one you show. All of course in perfect condition too which is highly suspicious.


I do not like the patina. Hard to define exactly why, this is just one area where experience shows. While it is true that there are near endless varieties of patina I have never seen this look on any genuine item, though that could be a photo problem.


Finally, and most strongly the round-cross section design of the catch "plate" for the pin does not exist in genuine fibula I am aware of but is on nearly all the recent fake Bulgarian jobs.



From Renate


Thanks for your detailed answer!


You say:


> most strongly the round-cross section design of the catch "plate"
> for the pin does not exist in genuine fibula I am aware of but is on
> nearly all the recent fake Bulgarian jobs.

the dolphin's pin hole I won't expect on a genuine piece (left by the way it was made?), not even traces of it on a worn out one.




I'll better take a lens with me next time I go purchasing brooches. (The real brooch shown to compare is very shabby, but interesting. It's a funny looking triskelion openwork piece and repaired in antiquity.)




 From Shawn

Great image showing fake and genuine "catch plates".


Yes, the bottom (top in photo where fibula is upside down) of the catch plate
on the fake is rounded just as if it was wire bent over


The original is sharp and angular, in addition to showing its age. I am not sure if the line in the pin hole you refer to is a definite sign of fake or not. I can not recall seeing one on original but I amnot sure. Original would have been cast too. To tell the truth I had not even noticied in before.




 From Renate

An update

3rd September 07

From time to time I come across dual dolphin brooches on eBay. They all looked so similar that I compared a few pieces, sold by different sellers. Apparently all of them were made in the same molding, or at least in the same workshop ... not very supposable on ancient items offered by different sellers! I'm sure they're all faked. The nonconformity of each brooch's two dolphins turned ot to be the most simple indication.

Some pieces show more wear and patination than others, depending on the time they spent in a grinding tumbler and in a goat's dungheap I suppose (in fact I have no idea about the current brooch faker's finishing customs). So there are major nonconformities that aren't changed by finishing (1,2,7); and minor nonconformities (3-6), that may go due to the finishing.

(1) the upper dolphin makes a perfect right angle with the vertical bar, the lower has a slant.
(2) the lower dolphin is slimmer
(3) the upper dolphin's 'mouth socket' triangle isn't symmetrical and it's tip is too wide to be a tip
(4) there's a thin line in the bar connecting the two dolphins.
(5) there's a dint in the lower dolphins 'mouth socket'
(6) the upper dolphin's tail is a tad thicker. You can even see it in other than side vies, depending on how the light meets the chamfers in that area
(7) the the lower dolphin's fluke turns a tad more backwards than the other

Mr. Hattatt knew two dolphin brooches, both made of gold. He referred to them as knee brooch variants - see image.



Some images of pieces I regard as fakes. Seller's name and auction number are included.

There are several other dual dolphin types on the market. Most of them aren't true, too I believe. Take a look at the seller's names - I guess you already know them as PBM's (Proud Blacklist Members; of the Yahoo goup's list)).

From the left clockwise: 

draconarius, spes publica, victorianantiquities and stigsantiquities




 From Renate

17th Feb 07



  From Phil

17th Feb 07



The most likely case here is that the solidified "dirt clump" is done in modern times with a hot glue and a handful of soil. Many of these come out of Eastern Europe (as per the type and color of the dirt used.) I have 2 examples myself of bow fibulae that have pins that were "restored." I picked them up from a colleague of mine for about $10/piece, more for fun than anything else.


They have very clear dirt clumps at both ends of where a modern pin was added, after being chemically patinated to look something like the original patina (BTW, the chemically induced patina is much greener and smoother that the original patina on the fibula itself, like that statue in question from the earlier discussion... It's simply a matter of really just looking at the piece closely to see the difference on these two that I have.)




 From Shawn

17th Feb 07


I agree with you. Front looks genuine with patinas I have seen before, including the deeper hole. Pin is suspiciously new and several times thicker than any genuine existing pins on 1st century Roman plate fibluae that I have handled. The heavy encrustation at the hinge and catch therefore look like they were "glued" to cover the replacement of a pin. I would guess it is genuine fibula with replaced pin.


From Renate

19th Feb 07

Thanks for answering!

Yes, the colour of the pin is very green. It's obvious on this piece now; I hope it's as obvious when I purchase a brooch next time. I remember the statue you mentioned and I saw a head or mask today with the same colour. I'll have a look on various genuine metal pieces on eBay to `collect' patina impressions.

I paid about 10 EUR. Now I know why it was so cheap.

Legion_8 claimed to live in Las Vegas and had sort of an Eastern European name, but the envelope was sent by someone with an English name from Maastricht / NL. Is this a common arrangement for sellers like him?

I've already got two bow brooches with replaced pins, too. I purchased them to learn how that looks like. Both pins are different to this one, so it's still a addition to my collection. Three are enough :).

Thanks again,


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