IMPRESSIVE ARTIFACTS

BY ALAENA HOSTETTER

The natural décor business owned by mother and son Empress and Micah Gilbert displays a breathtaking collection of earthly treasures, and their gallery is, literally, the most impressive in Dallas.

With hundreds of high-quality mineral and coral specimens, including crystals and semiprecious stones that range from tabletops to lamps to decorative accessories, the design floor turns heads in every direction.

Staying content with their stunning inventory wasn’t in the cards for the Gilberts, who recently began amassing a jaw-dropping fossil collection, including dinosaur skulls, woolly mammoth tusks and extinct shelled sea creatures.

Acquiring these specimens, which are sourced from all over the world, including countries such as France, Germany, Madagascar, Canada and Italy, is no small feat. It took years to develop the knowledge of these fossils and nurture the contacts who could supply the Gilberts with the specimens.

“It takes a lot of doing—between connecting with the right people and finding legitimate sources,” says Micah Gilbert.

In fact, it took two years for the Gilberts to get their hands on a museum-quality mosasaur skull, which belonged to a carnivorous apex predator that measured over 40 feet long and roamed the seas between 66 and 80 million years ago. It landed in their showroom this spring all the way from Morocco, an extraordinary artifact measuring almost 5 feet in length.

“It was a very lengthy process to acquire such a rare and unusual specimen,” Gilbert says.

Micah Gilbert, who is a Registered Master Valuer in addition to being a trained geologist and gemologist, has been doing all of the sourcing and buying for the company for the past four years. He enjoys sharing his knowledge, and he invites those curious about the natural creations of our Earth to come to the showroom and tour the specimens as you would at any great museum.

Notably, most of the fossils in the Gilberts’ collection are considered museum grade—they are extremely authentic, having undergone minimal or no restoration, which is considered of greater value than specimens composed more heavily of artificial restoration.

“We make it a point to locate specimens with a large amount of authentic fossilized properties. The mosasaur skull is approximately 85 percent true fossilized bone, which is considered very complete, especially for a piece of this size and quality,” Gilbert says. “We’re up front with disclosing the areas of restoration as well. What distinguishes us is the trust factor.”

In addition to skulls, the Gilberts have a dazzling collection of ammonites, which are shelled marine mollusks that were a precursor to the modernday squid or octopus.

The fossilized shells on display range in size from a few inches to several feet. Some are covered in a rainbow of iridescent stone, which is called ammolite. Some are cut in half, exposing the different chambers of the shell that now have crystallized material glistening from within.

One impressive ammonite stands unfurled at almost 5 feet tall on a pedestal in the showroom, which is enormous for the species, Gilbert says. It’s extremely rare to find such a large specimen that is “uncoiled,” rather than the traditionally coiled and compact ammonites. It is also extraordinarily well preserved, composed of 98 percent original material.

Gilbert is in the process of sourcing more remarkable items, including 12-foot-long woolly mammoth tusks and a giant Triceratops skull.

“While we’ve always carried a modest selection of fossils, it is only now that we are expanding into more high-end and sizable decorative fossils,” Gilbert says. “We have had increased demand from people inquiring about fossils, and we’ve been in touch with paleontologists for years. We’re still committed to our minerals and our corals, but we felt the timing was right.”

Alaena Hostetter is a Dallas-based journalist who writes about all of her favorite things: art, design, culture, music, entertainment and food.