A few thoughts:
First, I attach a shot of my OOG 2nd class taken through one of the Greenbrough 30x optical microscopes we use in the lab. Before one mocks opticals, allow me assure everyone that perfectly good science can be done without SEMs. Note the edges of the star; they are gray, and lifted from the metal. It's almost as if it was made outside the order, and dropped in. Had the star been made inside the order, it would seem to me that the enamel would have melted into the recess in the metal, filling it completely, and taking the shape of the form faithfully. This star seems to have been made of epoxy, rather than enamel, and seems to have been dropped into the order after the "gold" gilding was applied.
My limitation is that I have only seen my order this close. I would be eternally grateful to those who have seen many, if they could at least take a good magnifying glass, and see if they can see something different, or similar, in their OOGs.
The other issue was a bit more difficult to photograph because of glare; there is seen a "hole" in the apex of the frame surrounding the archway below the clock in the tower in the 9th variant of the 3rd class OOGs, but none in the 2nd class, or earlier variants of the 3rd class, at least according to Mondvor. My 2nd class has the hole. Following, I attach images of my star, and then the "hole" example in a 3rd class OOG from Mondvor:
And the "hole" in the 9th variant 3rd class from Mondvor:
At this point, here is what I am considering; either this is a fake, based on a doctored 3rd class, 9th variant, or, replacements for 2nd and 3rd class OOGs that have been recently minted, have all been minted off of one pattern, explaining why my order and the late variant 3rd class orders are identical. When I say "Identical", I do so very critically; the letters "CCCP" are identical, the rings surrounding them are identical, the time on the clock is identical, and now, the "Hole" in the arch is present on both. If someone could advise us as to how current replacement orders are being minted, they might just provide the final clue that could solve this mystery. As a bonus, I would go so far as to offer use of my facility's Scanning Electron Microscope, and optical resources to anyone who could assist in answering this question. Obviously, the operation of such equipment costs much more than what I paid for the order, but at this point, cost has nothing to do with it. If a forgerer is preying on us, and by "us" I mean honest collectors, I wish to expose such a person for what they are - cost aside.
Thank you all for your thoughts, and wisdom.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but this is, without a shadow of a doubt, a gilt 3rd class.
The base is genuine, the original serial number was removed and a new one engraved, and the medallion was gilt. All in all, it's about 15 minutes of work to increase the value fourfold; not bad IMHO.
I was originally headed in that direction with this. I'm ok with the gilding bit, but I think it would be much more than trivial to remove an old serial number and replace it. I passed the order under an SEM twice, and there did not seem to be any evidence of a discontinuity of substrate at any point. What I did notice, was that the "enamel", instead of flowing into its channels, appeared to lift up at the edges of the patterns - almost as if it were made of epoxy that separated as it cured. My experience with heat-applied enamel has been that it faithfully follows the form that supports it - to the point of actually charring a bit if the substrate is too hot. The other thing revealed under the SEM, were several spots of epoxy or silicone that probably overflowed their boundaries, and were wiped up by the person making the order. These spots were invisible to the eye, but a cakewalk for the SEM. I think it may be the case that I had a "parade medal", a highly detailed reproduction cast off the latest forms available to the artists that made the orders, produced with the intent of either replacing a lost original, or, being worn publicly, with the original safe in a secure location.
To the seller's credit, they refunded my money, and made no attempt to challenge either the logic, or imagery that I presented them.
Thank you all for your support; I have an old, beat-up 3rd class on its way, which will finally put a real OOG in my hands!!
Thanks for the new info and glad you got a refund.
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Good thing that you sent tha piece back.
I can guarantee you that this piece is indeed a genuine, altered 3rd class. There is no point in making a copy of these, it simply does not make any sense. As to replacements, they do exist (refered to as duplicates) and are made at the mint by erasing the already engraved serial number and punching in the number of the lost/stolen/... order, as well as the letter "Д".
Regarding the enamel, you have to remember that we are dealing here with an industrailly produced piece, not a jewellry one. As such, as long as it looks OK, that tends to be good enough. I have many pictures of less than perfect enameling of these orders, sometimes not much more that a blob in the center of the star shape.