Diamonds: time capsules from the Siberian Mantle

Taylor, Lawrence A. and Anand, Mahesh (2004). Diamonds: time capsules from the Siberian Mantle. Chemie Der Erde - Geochemistry, 64(1) pp. 1–74.



Diamonds are thought to be ‘‘time capsules’’ from the Earth’s mantle. However, by themselves, consisting of nearly pure carbon, diamonds provide little geochemical information about their conditions of formation and the nature of their mantle hosts. However, this obstacle to studying the origin of diamonds and their hosts can be overcome by using two main approaches that focus on studying: (1) the rocks that contain diamonds, i.e.,
diamondiferous xenoliths; and (2) mineral inclusions within the diamonds, the time capsule’s little treasures, if you will. Diamondiferous xenoliths, their diamonds, and mineral inclusions within the diamonds are the focus of this review, focusing on studies of samples from the
Yakutian kimberlites in the Siberian Platform. Studies of diamondiferous eclogite xenoliths significantly enhance our understanding of the complex petrogenesis of this important group of rocks and their diamonds. Such studies
involve various geochemical and petrological investigations of these eclogites, including major
and trace-element, radiogenic as well as stable isotopic analyses of whole rocks and minerals. The results from these studies have clearly established that the Group A–C eclogites originate from subduction of ancient oceanic crust. This theory is probably applicable worldwide.
Within the last several years, our research group at Tennessee has undertaken the systematic dissection (pull apart) of diamondiferous eclogites from Siberia, consisting of the following steps: (1) high-resolution computed X-ray tomography of the xenoliths to produce 3D images that relate the minerals of the xenoliths to their diamonds; (2) detailed dissection of the entire xenolith to reveal the diamonds inside, followed by characterization of the setting of the diamonds within their enclosing minerals; and (3) extraction of diamonds from the xenolith for further investigation of the diamonds and their inclusions. In this last step, it is important that the nature and relative positions of the diamond inclusions are carefully noted in order to
maximize the number of inclusions that can be exposed simultaneously on one polished surface. In this modus operandi, cathodoluminescence imaging, plus FTIR/N aggregation and C/N isotopic analyses are performed on polished diamond surfaces to reveal their internal
growth zones and the spatial relationship of the mineral inclusions to these zones. Knowledge gained by such detailed, albeit work-intensive, studies continues to add
immensely to the constantly evolving models of the origin of diamonds and their host rocks in the Earth’s mantle, as well as to lithospheric stability models in cratonic areas. Multiple lines of evidence indicate the ultimate crustal origin for the majority of mantle eclogites. Similar pieces of evidence, particularly from d13C in P-type diamonds and d18O in peridotitic garnets lead to the suggestion that at least some of the mantle peridotites, including diamondiferous ones, as well as inclusions in P-type diamonds, may have had a crustal protolith as well.

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