Diamond from recycled crustal carbon documented by coupled δ18O-δ13C measurements of diamonds and theirinclusions

R. B. Ickert*, T. Stachel, R. A. Stern, J. W. Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The origin of variability in δ13C values of cratonic diamonds is controversial, particularly for diamonds associated with eclogitic source rocks. The variability may be due to distinct primordial reservoirs, high-temperature isotope fractionation, recycling of crustal carbon, or any combination of the three. In contrast, the interpretation of variability in δ18O values of silicate minerals in eclogite xenoliths and eclogitic inclusions in diamonds is less contentious-the hypothesis that they represent rocks that were exposed to weathering and hydrothermal alteration at the surface of Earth is broadly, but not universally, accepted. Here, we report high-precision SIMS oxygen isotope measurements of 15 eclogitic garnet inclusions in diamond from the Damtshaa mine, which comprises four kimberlites within the Orapa cluster of kimberlites. The results demonstrate a link between δ18O values of inclusions and δ13C values of their host diamonds. The δ18OVSMOW values range from +4.7% to +8.8% and have a median value of +5.7%, similar to the distribution exhibited by cratonic eclogite xenoliths worldwide, at the nearby Orapa Mine, and of oceanic crust. Contrary to previous suggestions, there is no evidence for a unique oxygen isotope distribution for inclusions in diamond. The oxygen isotope ratios do not correlate with garnet compositions; they have, however, a strong negative correlation with the δ13C values of their host diamonds. We interpret this correlation to have geochemical significance. It cannot be due to primordial heterogeneities or high-temperature isotope fractionation, but is most likely due to an association between recycled near-surface crustal rocks and recycled carbon. We suggest that protoliths to the eclogites at Damtshaa that were more strongly affected by low-temperature seafloor weathering (recorded by δ18O≥~6%) also have concentrations of primary organic carbon, and, therefore, low-δ13C Damtshaa diamonds are associated with recycling of crustal carbon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-97
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon isotopes
  • Diamond
  • Eclogite
  • Garnet
  • Oxygen isotopes
  • Subduction


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