Wood and Stone : Petrified Wood Coffee Table

Petrified Wood Coffee Table

Petrified Wood Coffee Table

200 million years ago, living trees were transformed into fossils by mineral replacement of natural wood fibers. This unique process has thus produced rare specimens of hard and colorful quartz often called petrified wood.

The phenomenon of tree petrification is found worldwide. However, the deposits found in Arizona and Oregon are by far the most dramatic and beautiful. The majority of the Arizona Petrified wood was from an extinct form of pine tree called Araucarioxylon. The trees floated down an ancient river until they jammed up and were buried in sand. During this time, the Triassic period, volcanoes were commonplace and volcanic dust covered the waterlogged trees so much so that 2,000 feet of overburden was eventually deposited. This cut off the oxygen and thus slowed the natural decay process. In this dust was a water soluble form of silica (commonly called quartz). This silica was soaked up into the trees by capillary attraction and quartz crystals began to grow and replaced the natural wood fibers, cell by cell. Microscopic examination of this material will reveal individual cells and distinct botanical structures. In fact, the process was so exact that scientists can identify the tree species by examining these crystallized cells.

Thus over a period of 200 million years trees grew, were uprooted, floated down river, were covered by 2,000 feet of volcanic dust and sand, and then this overburden was eroded by wind and rain to expose these now fossilized trees to mankind. The colors present in petrified wood are caused by trace elements of metal salts dissolved into the quartz.

The rarity of petrified wood comes, of course, from the odd circumstances necessary for petrification. Most logs, however, have dull color, are cracked in two from earth movements, have large holes or have significant flaws from millions of years of weathering. Thus, the vast majority of logs found are of no value. Most petrified wood is protected in various State and Federal parks. Private ranchers, etc., however, do occasionally find Petrified Wood on their land and there is no regulation on its sale. The specimens for sale here came from two very large private collections which were gathered over a forty year period.

Each log is cut using an extremely large diamond saw. Then each section is backed with epoxy and fiberglass to assure durability and strength. Finally, the face is polished using carborundum grits. This long and arduous process eventually gives the surface a natural and durable mirror finish. The process is the same as that used to finish all gemstones, no varnish or enhancer is used to coat the surface. It is simply polished.

The base was custom designed and fabricated by Sean McWilliams of Artistic Ironworks in Carbondale, CO.

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