Desert Varnish

This new year I have started a palaeontology course which I am enjoying enormously. Instead of just reading things up in my own books, being taught about these processes in so much depth means being able to ask questions about these wondrous transformations and really understand from a microscopic level what is going on to make these amazing specimens. It also means meeting and sharing this interest with some really nice people. Today, Annie from the course brought in a specimen of fossilised wood she picked up in Libya amidst a whole desert of stoic looking petrified timber monoliths.

 Petrified Wood from Libya found by Annie

Petrified Wood from Libya found by Annie

   Broken pieces of fossilised tree trunks. Image courtesy of  Temehu   http://www.temehu.com/Cities_sites/sahara- fossilised-forest.htm

Broken pieces of fossilised tree trunks. Image courtesy of Temehu http://www.temehu.com/Cities_sites/sahara-fossilised-forest.htm

 Petrified wood gnarled edge

Petrified wood gnarled edge

petrified wood desert varnish jade mellor.jpg

These burnished edges you can see are polished up in a process called "desert varnish" where dew from cool desert nights when the temperature plummets and manganese carried in the harsh winds coat and polish up portions of the fossilised wood.

petrified wood desert varnish jade mellor 4.jpg

I have previously tried to emulate this textured surface in my work, (Black Beam ring below) contrasting rough and organic with burnishing, so it was great to get my hands on an actual weighty specimen of it rather than through the glass of cabinets or photos. It really was so smooth and flint-like after the organic matter in the wood had been replaced by minerals whilst it was trapped deep under the ground for millions of years. I will look forward to trying some more experiments in the workshop now I have handled a piece up close and my hands have experienced the real surface.

 Black Beam ring 2012   Resin, oxidised silver, hand polished copper metallic lustre.

Black Beam ring 2012

Resin, oxidised silver, hand polished copper metallic lustre.

  Purchase details available at  Not Just A Label  http://www.notjustalabel.com/shop/46919

Purchase details available at Not Just A Label http://www.notjustalabel.com/shop/46919