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What on Earth Is Petrified Wood?

What on Earth Is Petrified Wood?

Petrified wood exquisitely shows what time and nature can do when combined. It's a natural wood that had transformed into stone after thousands or millions of years of permineralization.

But unlike most fossils that are impressions of a prehistoric organism, petrified wood is a representation of an organic wood itself.

Crystal healers love this stone for its ability to instill ancient wisdom and calming energies to a troubled mind and heart.

The Physical Properties of Petrified Wood

Structure and composition wise, petrified wood is both a fossil and a stone. It forms from the branches and trunks of ancient wood through permineralization, or the process in which organic tissues of a wood break down and are replaced by inorganic minerals.

The inorganic minerals that fill the cell cavities of the natural wood are usually silica (the substance that makes up rocks) or calcite, and in some cases opal or pyrite. The result? A fossilized wood with its original shape and structure preserved and protected from decomposition.

The presence of mineral impurities in the cells of petrified wood give its interior its rich earthy tones, which are evident when the wood is in its sliced form. These impurities include:

  • Manganese - Pink or orange
  • Manganese oxides - Black or yellow
  • Carbon - Black
  • Cobalt, chromium, and copper - Green or blue
  • Iron oxides - Brown, red, and yellow

Popularly used in lapidary work, petrified wood is cut into different shapes and sizes for jewellery, crafts, and decorations. It is cut into beads and cabochons to make rustic-looking necklaces, bracelets, and accessories. Blocks are made into bookends, while thick slabs are used to make table tops.

While petrified wood is durable at a hardness rating of 7 to 8, only a few specimens are suited for lapidary work. You'll want to work with well-preserved ones free of voids or fractures and have strong colours. Specimens full of fractures are fragile and break at extreme tension.

The History of Petrified Wood

The word petrified is derived from the Greek word petro meaning rock or stone.

The permineralization/petrification process (also called silicification) can occur from thousands to millions of years. It takes place underground when wood has fallen and is buried under layers of volcanic ash or sediment. However, not all buried tree trunks or branches transform into fossilized wood.

For a wood to be fossilized, these rare conditions must happen first:

The organic material is buried in an environment where oxygen is absent (i.e. anaerobic environment). Otherwise, if oxygen is abundant, the wood will decay faster.

The wood must be exposed to mineral-rich groundwater. It's the minerals contained in the water that replace the plant's decaying cellulose and lignin, eventually transforming the wood into a stone or fossil while preserving the wood's appearance and structure.

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This process results in 2 most common forms of petrified wood: agatized wood and opalized wood, which are wood filled by silica and wood filled by opal respectively.

Both types of silicified wood look alike, and a test has to be done to determine the exact identity of a given specimen. Though in terms of hardness, agatized wood is naturally tougher than opalized wood.

Petrified wood is abundant everywhere in the world. It is found in Canada, Australia, Madagascar, Africa, and the USA. The most popular destination for observing petrified wood up close is the Petrified Forest National Park in Northeastern Arizona.

The area used to be a wetland covered with 200-feet coniferous trees about 225 million years ago until it was flooded and covered by mud and sediments. The giant trees fell and were buried by river sediments.

Volcanoes surrounding the area erupted and blanketed the land with silica-rich ash, mud, and water. The fossilized logs were then revealed by erosion millions of years later.

Today, the park remains to be an attraction to tourists and archaeologists.

The Lore of Petrified Wood

Petrified wood in Petrified Forest National Park is wrapped in decades long history of curses as reported by its visitors.

These accounts started in the 1930s wherein visitors who strolled and stole/took a piece of wood from the park reportedly experienced unfortunate incidents like getting ill, being jailed, divorced, getting laid off from work, and worse, death.

Similar experiences were not reported from those who collected petrified wood legally (bought it from souvenir shops and rock shops).

The Metaphysical Properties of Petrified Wood

As an ancient stone, petrified wood is believed to store rich ancient knowledge and history. It carries vibrations that unlocks a person's growth, healing, and rejuvenation. It supplies its user with the wisdom needed to look into one's past life.

It is in recalling our past lives that we learn from previous experiences and heal from unresolved traumas, and meditating with petrified wood can help you work through these personal issues.

The stone can aid you in uncovering deep-seated traumas affecting your psyche and emotions, tracing their roots, and determining healthy ways to address these issues and move past them.

Facing mysteries in your life that seem to have no answers? Petrified wood can introduce you to the answers to your burning questions.

Once you get to the bottom of these mysteries, it will quiet your mind and heart with a peaceful reassurance that things will work out right in the end.


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What is Petrified Wood? How Does it Form? Where are their Locations? (2016, July 17). Geologypage.com. Accessed at http://www.geologypage.com/2016/07/what-is-petrified-wood-how-does-it-form-where-are-their-locations.html

What is Petrified Wood? How Does it Form? (n.d.). Geology.com. Accessed at https://geology.com/stories/13/petrified-wood/

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Petrified Wood. (n.d.). Crystal Council. Accessed at https://thecrystalcouncil.com/crystals/petrified-wood

Petrified Wood History and Information. (n.d.). Rockology. Accessed at https://rockology.net/blogs/news/petrified-wood-history-and-information

Permineralization. (n.d.). Ucmp.berkeley.edu. Accessed at https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/paleo/fossilsarchive/permin.html

Weiser, K. (2019, February). The Curse of the Petrified Forest. Legends of America. Accessed at https://www.legendsofamerica.com/az-petrifiedcurse/