Real Tortoise Shell?


Made a trip up to see Grandpa recently and he remembered that he had these picks for a long time and thought they might be Tortoise shell. Thought maybe you guys may be able to tell.

From what little I’ve read about 'em, they do appear to be 3-D looking when you hold them up to light and look at them with a magnifying glass. The colors almost stand up from the pick. Think I’ve read that you should be able to see some sort of growth rings in the pick. All I can see is what appears to be thousands of tiny scratches in the pick. I’m pretty sure the big triangle pick is not tortoise because the markings seem too blended, they kind of look man made.

Very warm sounding pick, good tone I think. Even though they haven’t been shaped yet. Which will be my next obstacle if I find they are real.

Whatcha think?


One thing I just noticed that I think you can see in the second picture is that there is a line all the way around the outside edge of the pick. You can barely see this line in the top right corner in the yellowish part of the pick.

Sorry for the terrible picks.


Thanks, Larry. Yeah, that’s one of the things that worry me is that they’re all pretty much the same size in thickness like you mentioned. I couldn’t really hear any pick noise clicking against the string, if any.

I also noticed on the side of the pick, you can see some of the colors that are inside of the pick. Don’t know if that indicates that they were cut out of a mold or if that would be a natural thing.

My gut is telling me they are not real. They just feel plastic and man made. But the tone is pretty darn good and there is almost zero pick noise.


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But the tone is pretty darn good…

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Well, ultimately that’s what matters most. I like having the tortoise shell picks for comparison purposes, but I prefer using a Wegen when I’m playing.


I dont have any tortoise shell picks but the Wegen 1.2’s i got recently …i love and i can definitely tell a difference in tone …maybe one of these days ill try a tortoise shell pick just for comparison …


Well, I tried the old burn test. They say Tortoise should smell like burnt hair and plastic should smell like, well, burnt plastic.
I heated up a safety pin and stuck it to one of the smaller ones and it sizzled like bacon and smelled like plastic. Bummer. It was kinda hard to tell though since I was using matches instead of a lighter. So I figured I would make it obvious and hold the match on the pick.The pick went up like a roman candle! Ha! I’m no chemist ( but I did watch Bill Nye when I was younger) but in my professional opinion, the smaller ones are not real.

When I held the safety pin to the big triangle one, it didn’t smoke at all and I couldn’t smell anything. So,I held the match directly to it and it still didn’t smoke. It just bubbled up into a black goo ( <—technical term), which they say is what should happen with Tortoise. The jury is still out on this one.

Anyways, I’ve suspended further research for now, before I burn the house down.


I was reading about the burn test, too. Sounds like you might have real tortoise, but it’s a shame you had to put the match to it to find out.


Yeah, I didn’t intend to torch 'em at first, I just got carried away. :smiley: Suprisingly, it didn’t do much damage though. Some re-shaping on the edge and they’re good to go.