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GIA Finds Clues to Continent Formation

Studying minerals in rare diamonds show when the stones and the land first formed.
Apr 29, 2019 8:06 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... Mineral inclusions in rare diamonds have provided clues to when their continents of origin were formed, according to research by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The researchers studied sulphide inclusions in type Ib yellow diamonds originating from the Zimmi mining area near the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. Those stones have rare nitrogen impurities, and comprise less than 0.1% of the world’s natural mined diamonds, the GIA noted.

“Diamonds are one of the most valuable gems, not only as jewelry, but also in geoscience,” said GIA research scientist Karen Smit. “The mineral inclusions in diamonds let us study the inaccessible depths of Earth — somewhere that today’s science cannot otherwise reach.”

The group, led by Smit, laser-cut and polished very thin plates taken from the Zimmi diamonds, and were able to isolate and study the sulphide they contained. They then extracted chemical isotopes that provided information on the deepest and oldest parts of the continent in which they were found. 

“This kind of insight is possible only because of the unique characteristics of diamonds,” said Dr. Wuyi Wang, vice president of research and development for the GIA. 

The GIA conducted the study together with researchers from the Washington-headquartered Carnegie Institution for Science, and the University of Alberta. The results were published in Science magazine. 

Image: A rough Zimmi diamond with a sulphide inclusion (above); a close-up view of the inclusion inside the diamond (below). (GIA)
Tags: Carnegie Institution for Science, Continent Formation, Dr. Wuyi Wan, Gemological Institute of America, GIA, Karen Smit, Rapaport News, sulphide inclusions, University of Alberta, Zimm
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