GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 136-5
Presentation Time: 2:40 PM


SMITH, Evan M., Gemological Institute of America, 50 W 47th Street, New York, NY 10036, WANG, Wuyi, Gemological Institute of America, 50 west 47 Street, New York, NY 10036, SHIREY, Steven B., Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 5241 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC 20015 and NESTOLA, Fabrizio, Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Universita di Padua, Via Giotto 1, Padova, 35137, Italy,

Many of the world’s largest and most valuable diamonds (e.g. Cullinan, Lesedi La Rona, Star of Sierra Leone, Lesotho Promise, Koh-i-Noor) have an unusual set of physical characteristics, suggesting they may form by a unique and common mechanism. The most often noted characteristic is their nitrogen-deficient character, classifying them as Type II. In addition, these large diamonds are generally inclusion poor, irregularly shaped, and highly resorbed. The famous 3106 carat Cullinan diamond, discovered in 1905, is a prime example. These Cullinan-like Type II diamonds are especially valuable as gemstones and difficult to access for research. Furthermore, they very rarely contain any inclusions that might shed light on their geological origin. For these reasons the paragenesis of such diamonds has long remained so enigmatic that they have not been connected to the processes that form more common Type I diamonds or even any other Type II diamonds.

Here we report the findings of a systematic search for inclusions among thousands of high-quality Type II diamonds, both polished gemstones and offcuts. Not only was the search successful in finding inclusions in 70 diamonds, it also revealed a recurring set of inclusions that are distinct from those of more familiar lithospheric/sublithospheric diamonds. The most abundant inclusion encountered was a metallic, Fe-Ni-C-S multi-phase assemblage, which was observed in 35 diamonds. The second most abundant inclusion type is former CaSiO3 perovskite, now retrogressed to lower-pressure minerals. The CaSiO3 phases constrain the depth of formation to deeper than 300 km. Two additional Cullinan-like Type IIa diamonds were found to have inclusions of low-Cr majoritic garnet, also indicative of a sublithospheric origin. Overall, the inclusions suggest that Cullinan-like, large, high-quality diamonds belong to a unique paragenesis with an intimate link to Fe-Ni metal in the deep mantle.