GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 136-3
Presentation Time: 2:10 PM


SMIT, Karen V., Gemological Institute of America, 50 West 47 Street, New York, NY 10036, STERN, Richard A., Canadian Centre for Isotopic Microanalysis, University of Alberta, 1-26 Earth Sciences Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada, SHIREY, Steven B., Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 5241 Broad Branch Road, NW, Washington, DC 20015 and WANG, Wuyi, Gemological Institute of America, 50 west 47 Street, New York, NY 10036,

Type Ib diamonds contain abundant isolated nitrogen and account for less than 0.1% of natural diamonds. This rarity is because over geological time and at temperatures typical of the cratonic lithosphere, isolated nitrogen aggregates to A centres (N pairs) and B centres (4N around a vacancy). Preservation of isolated nitrogen in natural diamonds requires either short mantle residency times or storage at temperatures <700 °C, whereas most cratonic diamonds are billions of years old and resided >1000 °C.

Eclogitic sulphides in Zimmi Ib diamonds (Sierra Leone) have 650 Ma Re-Os ages, whose origin is best explained by rapid tectonic exhumation after continental collision to shallower depths in the keel prior to kimberlite eruption (Smit et al., 2016). Here we present SIMS and spectroscopic data for a new suite of Zimmi sulphide-bearing diamonds. These new data allow us to evaluate the speciation of diamond source fluids, and the defects in these diamonds that are responsible for their distinctive canary yellow colours. The combined dataset establishes the link between the spectroscopic features in Zimmi Ib diamonds and their unusual history.

Low δ13C values below -15 ‰ in 3 diamonds result from source fluids that originated as organic carbon in the oceanic crust, and were recycled into the lithosphere during subduction. In particular, a trend of decreasing δ13C and N content from core to rim in a single diamond indicates closed-system growth from CH4-rich subducted fluids. Recycled origins for organic carbon supports the temporal link of Zimmi diamond formation with deep underthrusting during Neoproterozoic continental assembly, recorded in the Rokelide orogen.

CL imaging of Zimmi diamonds reveals irregular growth patterns with abundant deformation lines, associated with tectonic exhumation of the diamonds. Vacancies formed by deformation were subsequently annealed to form NV centres, where the negative charge state (637 nm) is more abundant due to isolated nitrogen donating an electron. Fancy brownish-yellow to greenish-yellow colours observed in Zimmi Ib diamonds result from a combination of isolated nitrogen, deformation-related amber centres and NV centres. These colour-forming defects can all be attributed to the unique geological history of Zimmi Ib diamonds and their rapid exhumation after formation.