The story of Russell-Zuhl centres around a fascination with nature’s most magnificent gift: petrified wood. It begins with the "father" of petrified wood Herb Zuhl, the first person to source specimens of stature and quality, and continues with Ralph Thomson, the "master" of petrified wood, who sources and polishes petrified wood of a standard that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Here’s how their journey began…
A lifetime fascination
Ralph Thomson’s fascination with petrified wood started when he was a boy in Ohio and would accompany his father on excavating trips around the USA to dig in the dirt looking for fossils and minerals. It was on one of those trips to Montana at 10 years of age that Ralph discovered his first ever piece of petrified wood.
When Ralph Thomson met Herb Zuhl
A search for large quality pieces of petrified wood for his own use lead Ralph to meet Herb Zuhl and begin a friendship which lasts to this day. Herb is known as the father of petrified wood as he was the first person in the world to source, cut and polish such large specimens of such outstanding quality. After two years of accompanying Herb to his sources of petrified wood in the Western States of the USA, Ralph purchased the business from him. Ralph shared Herb’s knowledge and passion for petrified wood and brought his own cutting and polishing expertise - Ralph does all the cutting and polishing of his specimens in his warehouse in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
If Herb Zuhl is known as the father of petrified wood, Ralph is its master - he is the only person in the world to excavate and polish such large specimens of petrified wood of such magnificent quality. No one else has access to the sources he has in Arizona, Washington and Oregan, home to the finest petrified wood in the world. Ralph has a profound respect for petrified wood - from those he excavates, only the specimens he considers truly spectacular make it to his showroom.
Ralph has developed a special technique for working with such large pieces, impregnating the stone with a fracture sealer and backing to assure safe transport and mounting. The top surface is hand polished to produce a mirror-like natural finish. Such skilled petrified wood workmanship is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Recognised for their value, Ralph's pieces are prized by collectors and furnish the world’s finest homes and most prestigious universities and educational institutions, including the Smithosian in Washington D.C., the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Guanhuan Liu Museum in China and Yale University in Connecticut.
The fascination continues
After forty years of research and work, what continues to fuel Ralph’s fascination with petrified wood? As he says in his own words, “A standout specimen of petrified wood is just stunning. It is wondrous and evokes passion.”
To see the petrified specimens currently in our showroom, contact us.