Petrified wood is one of the oldest and most fascinating vestiges of pre-dinosaur earth.
The term ‘petrified’ conjures images of Medusa which is in fact perfectly accurate; it is literally wood which has been turned to stone (the Greek root of the word is ‘petro’ meaning rock or stone).
This mesmerising material is formed when trunks of wood are buried, usually under volcanic ash or mud, and deprived of oxygen. Over time every cell of the wood is replaced by other mineral elements such as silica, pyrite, agate or, in rare and beautiful cases, opal. The result is a beautiful memorial of bark, cambium, sapwood, even sometimes the pith; all the original lines of the cellular structures of wood but turned into rock which gives it incredible weight and a cool touch.
Indonesia is rich with petrified wood because of its persistent volcanic activity over millions of years - most of it is found nestled in the shadows of volcanoes in West Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. However although there are pieces that have been found dating back to the Triassic period (when the supercontinent of Pangaea gave life to the first mammals and dinosaurs), there are other much younger examples of petrified wood. The entire water-city of Venice, originally a swamp, had large logs of timber hammered into the watery ground to form the very foundation on which everything was built. That wooden foundation, over hundreds of years of suffocation by the mud, is now a solid stone base.
The wonder of this stone is the uniqueness or ‘fingerprint’ of every piece; it is impossible to know what patterns and colours lie hidden inside the log until it is cut and ground. In Indonesia typically the stone wears colours of black, pale grey and brown while North American petrified wood often features touches of reds and blues.
At SOUQ we have favourites. We source rare pieces of pure white and grey and love the contrast of black and white where the shapes within are very defined rather than scattered patterns.
We work with excellent artisans who cut and polish the stone to perfection to give soft edges to each piece and smooth surfaces to our plates. The creations we have made from this fossil include cheeseboards, book-ends, dinner plates and table tops.
As with all the Earth’s beautiful resources, naturally-occurring petrified wood is finite so it is a very special and unique piece to take home from your travels in Indonesia.