Diamonds may be valued by the jewelry industry for their exquisite sparkle. But a recent scientific discovery has revealed that diamonds can be of value for the information they hold in addition to their beauty.
Natural diamonds are formed roughly 90 miles below the Earth’s surface. There are only limited zones in the Earth’s mantle that can produce diamonds due to the high temperatures and pressures required for their formation. Scientists have recently determined that some rapidly formed diamonds provide a snapshot of this extreme environment in which they formed.
The picture of these conditions comes from fluids trapped during formation, which provides information about the material that infiltrates the Earth’s mantle. These materials are thought to be the cause of abrupt changes in chemical and physical properties that are found at the border of the continental upper mantle and crust.
Once they’re trapped in a diamond, these fluid inclusions are shielded from later alteration, so we can analyze them for hints about the conditions in the Earth’s crust and upper mantle.