FOSSILS, whose decorative qualities in either antique or contemporary settings, have made them a regular feature of Sotheby’s garden sales at Billingshurst, opened the May event with 100 lots. Although dealers have become interested in the genre (there are, for example, now stands selling natural history at Olympia), private buyers took the top offerings including the best seller, a detail of which is shown right.

A Crinoid (stone-lily) plaque from the Holzmaden region of Jurassic Germany, the 4ft 11in x 2ft 4 1/2in (1.50m x 75cm) fossil doubled its lower estimate, selling at £9800. The winning bid came from a US private buyer, a number of whose countrymen were also buying - leading to hopes that Americans are back as a bidding force.