With all its travel restrictions, 2020 presented a challenging year to the veteran traveller and fossil hunter Dale Rogers, yet the brand proved flexible enough to remain as buoyant as ever.
It was in the mid-1980s in Morocco that Dale spotted some small stones that looked like fragments of shells in a Tangier market. When he found out that the beautiful stones were at least 350 million years old, containing fossils of prehistoric sea creatures, it was a light-bulb moment, and both his vocation and the Dale Rogers Ammonite brand were born.
Dale Rogers began selling his intriguing specimens and fossils from a modest market stall in London’s Portobello Road. He quickly built an unparalleled reputation for focusing on quality and those hard-to-come-by larger pieces with true wow factor. Today, the Dale Rogers collection ranges from exquisitely mounted crystals to giant statement pieces and wall hangings. Clients have included Candy & Candy, Collett-Zarzycki, Terence Disdale Design, Andrew Winch Designs and Rose Uniacke.
The Pimlico Road gallery attracts customers from far and wide, so when the pandemic forced it to close, they had to adjust fast. Dale’s son, Luke Garwood, who runs the gallery, remained cheerful: ‘Thank God for Whatsapp and Instagram,’ he says. ‘We turned a nightmare scenario into something manageable, offering virtual gallery tours. So far customers have been entirely happy with how we’ve kept in close personal – if virtual – contact.’
Luke also credits their robust survival with his father’s ‘phenomenally good buying’ during 2019 and early 2020. ‘We’re confident that we have the best collection of natural art in Britain and one of the top five in the world that we’ve built up over time, so we still have umpteen exceptional pieces,’ says Luke. The company’s success is also largely due to its wide-ranging network of expert hunters who have kept the brand in the loop when Dale himself was unable to travel to meet them in person. ‘We have people on the ground almost everywhere,’ says Luke. ‘Over 35 years of building trusted relationships means that when sources find a great piece, they’ll come to us first – and that has continued via technology.’
Above and beyond continuing to trade successfully, 2020 heralded in two exciting new projects. One was installing a collection of extraordinarily rare crystals in Bamford’s new wellness centre in the Cotswolds, which included a 55-million-year-old fossil fish plate, a large-scale quartz collection, a Bolivian amethyst and a Jurassic 180-million-year-old crinoid.
Looking ahead, Dale Rogers is building a stunning new home for its collection in a listed dairy barn on Mersey Island. The barn will house a permanent, revolving display to enable clients to experience the breadth of the range. There are even plans for a helicopter pad.
‘Travel is in his blood and so Dale’s itching to get back out there to start scouring the world again for those awe-inspiring manifestations of our natural history that date back millions of years,’ says Luke, ‘but meanwhile we’ve got loads to feel optimistic about in 2021.’