Diamond growth from oxidized carbon sources beneath the Northern Slave Craton, Canada: A δ13C-N study of eclogite-hosted diamonds from the Jericho kimberlite

Katie A. Smart*, Thomas Chacko, Thomas Stachel, Karlis Muehlenbachs, Richard A. Stern, Larry M. Heaman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Diamonds from high- and low-MgO groups of eclogite xenoliths from the Jericho kimberlite, Slave Craton, Canada were analyzed for carbon isotope compositions and nitrogen contents. Diamonds extracted from the two groups show remarkably different nitrogen abundances and δ13C values. While diamonds from high-MgO eclogites have low nitrogen contents (5-82ppm) and extremely low δ13C values clustering at ∼-40‰, diamonds from the low-MgO eclogites have high nitrogen contents (>1200ppm) and δ13C values from -3.5‰ to -5.3‰.Coupled cathodoluminescence (CL) imaging and SIMS analysis of the Jericho diamonds provides insight into diamond growth processes. Diamonds from the high-MgO eclogites display little CL structure and generally have constant δ13C values and nitrogen contents. Some of these diamonds have secondary rims with increasing δ13C values from -40‰ to ∼-34‰, which suggests secondary diamond growth occurred from an oxidized growth medium. The extreme negative δ13C values of the high-MgO eclogite diamonds cannot be produced by Rayleigh isotopic fractionation of average mantle-derived carbon (-5‰) or carbon derived from typical organic matter (∼-25‰). However, excursions in δ13C values to -60‰ are known in the organic sedimentary record at ca. 2.7 and 2.0Ga, such that diamonds from the high-MgO eclogites could have formed from similar organic matter brought into the Slave lithospheric mantle by subduction.SIMS analyses of a diamond from a low-MgO eclogite show an outer core with systematic rimwards increases in δ13C values coupled with decreases in nitrogen contents, and a rim with pronounced alternating growth zones. The coupled δ13C-nitrogen data suggest that the diamond precipitated during fractional crystallization from an oxidized fluid/melt from which nitrogen was progressively depleted during growth. Model calculations of the co-variation of δ13C-N yielded a partition coefficient (KN) value of 5, indicating that nitrogen is strongly compatible in diamond relative to the growth medium. δ13C values of diamond cores (-4‰) dictate the growth medium had higher δ13C values than primary mantle-derived carbon. Therefore, possible carbon sources for the low-MgO eclogite diamonds include oxidized mantle-derived (e.g. protokimberlite or carbonatite) fluids/melts that underwent some fractionation during migration or, devolatilized subducted carbonates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6027-6047
Number of pages21
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


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