Evidence for a mantle component shown by rare gases, C and N isotopes in polycrystalline diamonds from Orapa (Botswana)

Cécile Gautheron*, Pierre Cartigny, Manuel Moreira, Jeff W. Harris, Claude J. Allègre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


In an attempt to constrain the origin of polycrystalline diamond, combined analyses of rare gases and carbon and nitrogen isotopes were performed on six such diamonds from Orapa (Botswana). Helium shows radiogenic isotopic ratios of R/Ra = 0.14-1.29, while the neon ratios (21Ne/22Ne of up to 0.0534) reflect a component from mantle, nucleogenic and atmospheric sources. 40Ar/36Ar ratios of between 477 and 6056 are consistent with this interpretation. The (129Xe/130Xe) isotopic ratios range between 6.54 and 6.91 and the lower values indicate an atmospheric component. The He, Ne, Ar and Xe isotopic compositions and the Xe isotopic pattern are clear evidence for a mantle component rather than a crustal one in the source of the polycrystalline diamonds from Orapa. The δ13C and δ15N isotopic values of - 1.04 to - 9.79‰ and + 4.5 to + 15.5‰ respectively, lie within the range of values obtained from the monocrystalline diamonds at that mine. Additionally, this work reveals that polycrystalline diamonds may not be the most appropriate samples to study if the aim is to consider the compositional evolution of rare gases through time. Our data shows that after crystallization, the polycrystalline diamonds undergo both gas loss (that is more significant for the lighter rare gases such as He and Ne) and secondary processes (such as radiogenic, nucleogenic and fissiogenic, as well as atmospheric contamination). Finally, if polycrystalline diamonds sampled an old mantle (1-3.2 Ga), the determined Xe isotopic signatures, which are similar to present MORB mantle - no fissiogenic Xe from fission of 238U being detectable - imply either that Xe isotopic ratios have not evolved within the convective mantle since diamond crystallization, or that these diamonds are actually much younger.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-572
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Orapa
  • Polycrystalline diamonds
  • Rare gases


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