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Lithic Gorget, Pendant & Ornament Fakes

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  • Lithic Gorget, Pendant & Ornament Fakes

    Some tips on distinguishing fake from genuine gorgets, pendants etc with some fake examples, followed by some genuine ones:
    Stone ornaments; Gorgets & Pendants

    With nearly two hundred years of archaeological studies, we still are not quite certain of the exact purpose of those single and multiple perforated tablets of stone which are found in association with burial remains and on habitation sites throughout the North American continent. We do know that the use and application of these items first occurred somewhere in the mid to late Archaic periods. And it was during this time that materials of choice included marine shell, slate and cannel coal. By the Early Woodland period when burial mounds became evident, shell had lost favor and was replaced by various stone materials including slate, shale, claystone, and occasionally granites and quartzites. Later in the Middle woodland period, copper, marine shell, slate, pipe-stone, cannel coal and rare materials such as chlorite and mica became popular. By the end of the woodland period and into Mississippian and Ft. Ancient, the use of stone was replaced again by shell, bone and various animal teeth.

    Strangely, each period of development featured workmanship of ornamental materials. Even the perforation of the very same materials changed drastically from one time period to another. Again we face a situation where the methods and materials play a significant part in determining the authenticity of the item. Ancient peoples depended upon the use of local materials for making adornment, however trade must have played a very significant role as the highest form of development appeared when the Hopewell, Copena and later Intrusive Mound cultures were at their zenith. These were times when the resources for raw materials utilized in ornamentation, were acquired from other areas such as the Rockies, the Gulf of Mexico and the upper peninsula of Michigan. Materials were worked in different and specialized methods in order to achieve the desired effect in final form. The lack of understanding by the replicators of yesteryear and today are key factors in determining the difference between real and reproduction. Add to this the unique results of natural ageing and any replicator would be hard pressed to duplicate the work and ageing necessary for the reproduction to be judged "authentic without question."

    False patination of copper by treatment with chemicals has been attempted. Yet, only time gives the correct look. Metamorphosed rocks such as slate and shale each impart a finish that has defied the faker to duplicate. Materials such as pipe-stone, chlorite, steatite and others develop a mellow look, only available when nature takes its time, and authenticity reigns supreme.

    Facts about Fakes
    Pg.29.Vol.VI No.1,1971, "The Redskin"

    At first glance, how many of you readers would call either one of the artifacts shown above a "Fake"? It would be my guess that one out of every 25 would say one or the other, but few would be sure. Actually, I will not keep you in suspense any longer. The artifact at the top, labeled Darke County, Ohio never came any closer to Darke County, Ohio than did the Mississippi River. Where did the fake originate? Probably from the famous faker at Pearl, Illlinois and then by way of the peddler's trunk wound its way deep into Ohio. Here is where the mistake was made. Ohio is home of the expanded Adena center gorget and even then, many seasoned collectors would have bet on its authenticity. A quick examination of the materials reveals banded slate whose shape is nearly correct with Adena conical tapered drilling. The artifact has been polished with abrasive fine grain sand paper and the pecking marks were made after completion, not before. No real patination is present, but artificial coloring or stain, probably caused by acid gives an impression of age. Notice the abrading marks, often found on the real thing. This is a better than average attempt to fool the unsuspecting collector. I want to mention that both items were for sale by the same person; because the lamina split on the authentic item, it was available for less than the apparent fake as many collectors will not buy a damaged or broken artifact. Why not? Better to own a real slightly scared authentic piece than a beautiful fake. How can you tell the real thing? Ancient man had methods and procedure for manufacturing each tool or ornament. Each step removes some evidence of the former. Fakers do not duplicate true workmanship of ancient man, this gives them away!

    Facts about Fakes
    Pg.25, Vol.XX,No.4,1986, "Prehistoric Artifacts

    I have tried with each successive part of this series to feature some type of artifact which modern man has manipulated to outwit the experienced. This time he came very close. I ask you to look closely at the engraved and fenestrated "Rattle snake" gorget. And I mean look very closely. The gorget is ancient shell, the engraving is modern. What we have here is some greedy profiteer has acquired a common ancient and authentic plain shell gorget and proceeded to have it fancily engraved. The shell gorgets are Mississippian period and only a few of them were engraved, many more were plain and not fenestrated. "Fenestrated" refers to the cut-out design effect that compliments the engraved design.

    The reworked item illustrated (in my opinion is worthless as an artifact). Before a master of deceit reworked it would have commanded $200 on the collector market.
    But the cut-out engraved design will attract a buyer in the $1000 to $1500 category. There was no modification of the back of this artifact so the encrustations of time remain. This is a detail which the fakers use to entrap a customer. I suspect that dental high speed tools and tiny drills were used. But so lazy and greedy was the maker that he did not brush away the minute shell grinding, then smeared some substance over the work to simulate age. Incidently, this design was copied from Etowah by Moorhead, 1932. "This isn't this the real one" !

    Facts about Fakes
    Pg.25, Vol. XXI, No.2, 1987 "Prehistoric Artifacts"

    Not being a native Southerner, I have learned that fine gorgets and pendants are very scarce in the south. While many of my close Southern friends told me so, I was reluctant to believe such statements. After nearly a dozen years, I now am a believer. Fine Pendants and Gorgets south of the Mason/Dixon line are rare. Northern and Midwestern counterparts are not common in terms of quality pieces, but the sheer numbers found have kept the values on the conservative side. What has this got to do with fakes? When value and rarity is extreme, deception increases!

    A busy little workshop in Middle Tennessee has set about to meet market demand. They also created new styles that became very popular.

    While called "Adena Reel" gorgets, they failed to recognize they had produced a hybrid. The shape is diagnostically Hopewell/Copena, the perforations were typically Adena. So lack of study tripped up the spurious makers. Then they added some ceremonial tally marks all around and aged some to look old. Were they timid about the price, not at all! A number of these catastrophes have sold in excess of $1000.

    Not satisfied with success in stone, now these makers are doing expanded center Hopewell gorgets in Cannel coal. It's easier to work! And some have been offered in cache's of three and four at a time. And a few have been engraved with effigies and stick figures to improve the asking price!

    Facts about Fakes
    Pg.27, Vol. XXI, 1987, "Prehistoric Artifacts"

    What will they duplicate next? That's the must puzzling dilemma facing the serious collector of ancient genuine artifacts. No, the word ancient and genuine used in sequential context is not a misprint. Because there are such things as ancient reproductions! In the renaissance period of Middle age Europe, works of the old Masters were duplicated regularly.

    Reproducing late prehistoric or protohistoric "Copper gorgets" and necklaces is the subject of this issue. Copper artifacts similar are also known in the earlier Copena context. I surmise that "Sun Circles and Human Hands", published 1957 was the inspiration. Circular gorgets with a repousse (raised and perforated) central boss and necklaces with "rolled" copper beads were shown. Each bead was encrusted with heavy copper carbonates (green encrustrations of age). Upon close examination, I couldn't help noticing several beads were showing bright copper where the encrustation disintegrated. And the metal surface was too smooth. Note that prehistoric copper was hand hammered and annealed to form malleable and workable material. However, some historic items were manufactured from early copper kettles imported from Europe. I took a chance and decided to study one bead in particular. I unrolled it and the encrustation fell off revealing smooth bright metal from a rolling mill, and some indentations from vise grips. Also the material was soft, not brittle like one would expect.

    My guess is these "Fakes" are the work of well known Middle Tennessee "Fake Factory".

    Repatriation, a serious threat!
    Pg.28, Vol.XXII, No.2,1988, "Prehistoric Artifacts"

    I'll begin by explaining the meaning of the word "repatriation" in terms of its relationship to artifact assemblages. Webster describes repatriation as "the act of restoring or returning a person or item to its origin". Today, that word is used frequently regarding the return of post-contact period artifacts to living members of certain native American tribes to which they can be traced in terms of origin.

    Many museums who participate in receiving federal funding are nearly compelled to repatriate ancient treasures to tribal leaders who request the same. The problem of this controversial topic is it is always shrouded in mystery of the unknown. In nearly every instance of repatriation, there is scant evidence of written documentation regarding the items which are insistent on being returned. Primary evidence entered is almost always that of oral tradition (circumstances where elder tribal members repeat the knowledge of their elders to younger members for the purpose of perpetuity). The only real problem with oral tradition is that often times due to changing languages and word meanings, meanings are difficult at best to decipher much beyond a few generations. Take for instance the biblical statements of the Old Testament. Few living scholars can explain the true meaning of the written words contained therein; and the bible has been in written form since the mid 1500's.

    To the best of my knowledge, I do not remember an instance where the previous owners of repatriated artifacts received any form of compensation for those items returned to rightful owners. What about their rights? If we are not diligent, we soon will find ourselves deprived of any and all rights guaranteed us by the Bill of Rights!

    Certain self-righteous persons would lead us to believe that these articles are our national treasure and that these artifacts belong to the people because they are part of our heritage. If this be true, every item of antiquity is part of our national heritage and truly belongs to the people. That would include your great-grand-mother's victorian rocker, your grandfather's spittoon and no doubt the first automobile your father drove when you were an infant. Therefore you should have the right to lay claim on those items of your ancestry. And who's to say that such items are not "sacred" or of religious significance; an area which news media finds very appealing. Today, it is difficult enough for the enlightened to recognize the difference between "real" and "reproduction". How will those who favor repatriation distinguish that fine line of difference? And will some find they have inadvertently sought the return of things crafted by some white reproductionist of the twentieth century?

    Suspicious Gorgets

    Fig. SG#1: The premier Adena gorget has always been the expanded Center type of banded slate; that's why we begin with this one, as it features the concentric eye in the center. It has a perfectly flat base and it is artificially aged. Therefore it is a reject! Sold @ $750-875

    Fig. SG#2: What an easy decision! Flat as a pancake (sawn stone) and polished by an industrial wheel, plus the holes are wrong. They are poorly done, but it has written history? Still no good! Sold @ $375-525

    Fig. SG#3: Referred to as a "Perforated Spatulate", this pendant type artifact is strictly Southeastern and it's made primarily of Greenstone, Ironstone or Limestone. This one is slate; it's no good! Sold @ $950-1200

    Fig. SG#4: Crafted from the crania, this artifact is engraved with an image purely imaginative, then colored to make it look old. Probably the bizarre work of a grave digger. Such things are not acceptable as collectibles. Sold @ $2500

    Fig. SG#5: Someone who crafted this ridiculous item must have thought that it would hang better with four holes. It can go without saying that this is one to which only a novice collector should be attracted. The finish is wrong and it is flat as glass. Sold @ $375

    Fig. SG#6: This is a pricey type of reproduction. The keeled Gorget always attracts the top collectors and this one has attractive banded slate. The finish is artificial, the workmanship is modern. Sold @ $1950

    Fig. SG#7: This is a bad example of an archaic Boatstone type of gorget. This one is porous limestone and sandblasted to a smooth finish, plus it has a shape unknown in ancient prehistory. Sold @ $175-250

    Fig. SG#8: Presumed to be an undrilled Southern Spatulate pendant, this one would have been a waste of time to perforate for the shape alone is angular and mechanical looking and kept it out of the running. Sold @ $1250

    Fig. SG#9: How many times have you seen a hardstone pendant with a triangular point? I don't recall ever seeing one. But there is more than shape that kills this specimen. The finish is wheel polished and the age is artificial. Sold @ $600

    Fig. SG#10: Although this one's a gorget, it should be shown with the one above. The granite is pink/white and black and very pretty, but not old in terms of surface or age. The holes are also too large! Sold @$ 725-800

    Fig. SG#11: This is one of the new breed. It's not made too perfect, it's not real showy, but it's not real either. The barking about the reproductions that were too good has brought about these aged monstrosities, most coming from Pearle, Illinois and Central Ohio. Sold @ $885

    Fig. SG#12: Looks like a "Wilson" to me. Made a lot of slate items and especially Glacial Kame types in the late 1980's -and- 90's. Did a lot of artificial ageing and always left a few scratches on each one. Sold @ $1450

    Fig. SG#13: Is it a pendant? Is it a gorget? Maybe it's both! The engraving is supposed to make it rare. We don't think it helps a bit. Made of a reddish brown slate that has been artificially aged. Sold @ $650

    Fig. SG#14: This particular one has a simple story. It is a replica of an artifact which has been illustrated many times in the "Redskin" and "Prehistoric Artifacts". It was sold at the same auction as the original many years ago. Too much pecking, not enough polish! Sold @$950-1200

    Fig. SG#15: The indented Gorget is seldom seen outside of Ohio and Indiana and is rare. This one is not made correctly and looks like the work of the Fake factory in central Ohio. Notice a few nicks and scratches, supposedly this makes it look more authentic. Sold @ $825

    Fig. SG#16: Southern type of Engraved and fenestrated "cut out" shell which is appealing to art collectors. Unfortunately, this one is not old as it has been aged with crystalline organic material. Sold @ $1500

    Fig. SG#17: This black -and- white granite Boatstone type Gorget has a feature that eliminates antiquity and authenticity right away. That is a sand blasted finish used to simulate the pecking process that was part of ancient manufacturing. Sold @$450

    Fig. SG#18: The spine back Slate Gorget is so rare that it appeals to collectors far and wide. This one features the illusory eye in the slate to make a statement. Unfortunately the false patina did it in. Sold @ $1150

    Fig. SG#19: This is incised work on black shale, a favorite material for reproductionists. It is easy to work and quick to produce. It's supposed to be a Southern cult style. Sold @ $650

    Fig. SG#20: Boatstone type of gorget, with an effigy of a Vulture carved in the round. It is made of Ohio Pipestone and highly polished. The machine polish, the awkward artwork and the lack of age proves its moderness. Sold @ $800

    Fig. SG#21: This large gorget was reported as a water find in the Southeastern area, it had an strange coloration of tan with purple and it had an exact measured thickness, plus the holes were wrong as they were biconical drilled; Adena is conical! Sold @ $1250

    Fig. SG#22: Sometimes you can't even convince replicators of an obvious mistake. This is the prevelant Expanded Adena style, and what do we find on the perforation, we have Hopewell drilling; who would believe in its authenticity? Sold @ $750-850

    Fig. SG#23: This style rectangular gorget with rounded ends is so simply made that few would surmise it is not right. The grain of the slate is wrong, and the polish is machined, plus the holes are drilled by a high speed metal drill. Sold @ $375

    Fig. SG #24: Southern Spatulates are always in demand. But, they better be made of greenstone, not slate and a good grade of material; this one was not so it didn't have the slightest chance! Sold @ $1850

    Authentic Prehistoric Gorgets & Pendants

    Fig. AP/GP#1: This fine Adena Bell Pendant measures 4 1/2" in length, found in Ashland County, Ohio; it is made of Blue/Gray banded slate and has a GIRS COA. Ex. Fincham, Bartok, Shirley. Value range $950-1150

    Fig. AP/GP#2: Hardstone Gorgets are rare, especially showy examples like this black and white granite from the Springfield area of Illinois. It is highly polished and archaic. Wasion -and- O'Neill collections. Value range $1800-2000

    Fig. AP/GP#3: This large Shell Mask is well carved from the Giant Whelk. Found in Tallapoosa, Alabama it was featured in the 1985 issue of Prehistoric Artifacts of North America. Value range $1650-2000

    Fig. AP/GP#4: Large shell earpins and huge Fenestrated Rattlesnake engraved gorget from the Dyer site, Oconee, Georgia and truly a work of ancient artistry. Value range $2500-3000

    Fig. AP/GP#5: The popular Anchor style pendant of gray/black banded slate, biconically perforated and found in Seneca County, Ohio Ex. Dr.Meuser, R.Mayne, Mumaw, Steimle. Value range $2500-3000

    Fig. AP/GP#6: The Adena Expanded Center gorget, diagnostic of the culture. Made of Blue/gray banded slate and found in Bartholomew County, Indiana. Originally collected by Billy Bush, Berner, Bushey. Value range $1200-$2000

    Fig. AP/GP#7: Often referred to as the "Townsend" Anchor pendant, this highly developed form was found in Highland County, Ohio and formerly in Townsend, Meuser, R. Mayne, Shirley. Value range $4500-$5000

    Fig. AP/GP#8: This very small artifact is only 1 1/4" in diameter and was found near Etowah, Bartow County, Georgia. It is made of light gray greenstone. The incised engraving is great! Knight collection. Value range $350-475

    Fig. AP/GP#9: Glacial Kame type ovoid Gorget of Green/Black banded slate and measuring 4 1/4" in length, found in Darke County, Ohio and formerly in the Mumaw collection. Value range $1200-1600

    Fig. AP/GP#10: One of the finest known Hopewell expanded center gorgets made of Blue/gray banded slate and highly developed styling. This fine artifact has graced the Helman, Shirley and Steimle collections. Cover "Prehistoric American" Value range $2500-3500

    Fig. AP/GP#11: This unusual sextagonal (6 sided) slate gorget of Red Banded slate is probably Hopewell, however no scientific evidence prevails. Formerly in the Parks, Whaley, Berner collection. Value range $950-1500

    Fig.AP/GP#12: The Archaic Boatstone is sometimes perforated and classed as a "gorget", however this fine grained granite specimen is from the type site, Poverty Point. Carter collection. Value range $850-950

    Fig. AP/GP#13: The Adena Expanded center features an "eye" in the Gray/black banded slate just below the top crest. Notice the conical typical adena drilling. Ex. Frank & Max Shipley, D. Bapst. Value range $2800-3200

    Fig. AP/GP#14: One of the most sought after pendant types in the south is the perforated "Spatulate" type. Almost always made of greenstone and well manufactured. The symmetry and development of this specimen is outstanding. Value range $2000-$3500

    Fig. AP/GP#15: The Sextagonal Pendant is nearly as rare as the gorget. This one is less than 3/16" thick and hails from Lucas County, Ohio and formerly in Wesolowski, Berner, Brooks, Shirley. Value range $850-1150

    Fig. AP/GP#16: Identified as an Adena Keeled gorget, this fine banded slate artifact is one the finest of its type. Formerly in the C.C. Smith collection, it now resides in the Fuller collection. Value range $3500-4500

    Fig. AP/GP#17: The Adena Bi-Concave Gorget type of heavily banded blue/gray slate and found in Randolph county, Indiana and formerly in Bunch, C.C. Smith, Berner and Brooks. Value range $1250-1500

    Fig. AP/GP#18: A rare Boatstone gorget of hematitic Claystone and found in Mississippi. The added incised lines give a dramatic effect to this artifact. Collected by J.Neal Brown. Value range $1250-1400

    Fig. AP/GP#19: This rectangular gorget of banded slate was anciently broken and repaired with an additional 5 perforations, it is rare to find both halves. Wachtel, et al. Value $500

    Fig. AP/GP#20: Exquisite rectangular gorget with very attractive banding in the slate. This large fine specimen is certainly in the top level of artifacts. Formerly Fuller collection. Value range $3000-3850

    “Used by Permission of the Author” and originally published in American Indian Artifacts; Genuine or Reproduction by Col. John F. Berner. Copyright © 2000 by American Antiquities, Inc.
    Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 11:35 AM.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.