Scientists claimed they have figured out how the world's biggest and most-valuable diamonds formed.
In a study published this week in the U.S. journal Science, they said large gem-quality diamonds, like the world-famous Cullinan or Lesotho Promise, may be born in metallic1
liquid deep inside Earth's mantle2
The research team, led by Evan Smith of the Gemological Institute of America, reached the conclusion after examining so-called "offcuts" of massive diamonds, which are the pieces left over after the gem's facets3
are cut for maximum sparkle.
They found tiny metallic grains trapped inside in more than 30 exceptionally large stones, which are made up of a mixture of metallic iron and nickel, along with carbon, sulfur4
, and hydrogen.
These inclusions led the researchers to conclude that that these diamonds formed, like all diamonds, in the Earth's mantle, but they did so under conditions in which they were saturated6
by liquid metal.
Most diamonds formed at depths of 150 to 200 kilometers under the continents and shoot to the surface in volcanic7 eruptions8
. But these large, rare stones formed at extreme depths, likely within 360 to 750 kilometers in the convecting mantle, where rocks are known to be mobile.
"Pure carbon crystallized in this mix of molten metallic liquid in Earth's deep mantle to form diamonds," the team explained in a statement.
of this metallic liquid were occasionally trapped within the diamonds as they grew," offering useful clues that may help "advance our understanding of Earth's deep mantle, hidden beneath tectonic plates and largely inaccessible10
for scientific observation."