Trace element chemistry of mineral inclusions in eclogitic diamonds from the Premier (Cullinan) and Finsch kimberlites, South Africa

Implications for the evolution of their mantle source

Fanus Viljoen*, René Dobbe, Jeff Harris, Braam Smit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Although diamonds of eclogitic paragenesis are commonly encountered in the productions of many Southern Africa kimberlites, the nature and evolution of the protolith to eclogitic diamonds are still poorly understood. There is some evidence that these protoliths (and possibly also the diamonds) may be related to subduction of oceanic crust, although this is not a universally accepted view. In order to further investigate the protolith/diamond relationship, garnets and (in some cases) clinopyroxene inclusions in 23 diamonds from Premier mine and 16 diamonds from Finsch were analysed for their trace element composition. From both mines a strong correlation between the garnet Ca content and the chondrite-normalised rare earth element (REE) pattern is evident. Garnets with comparatively low Ca content are characterised by REE patterns which show a steady increase in abundance from light rare earths (LREE) to heavy rare earths (HREE). With increasing Ca content in garnet, the abundance of LREE (La, Ce, Pr, and Nd) as well as the middle rare earths (MREE; Sm, Eu, Gd, and Tb) progressively increases, ultimately giving the trace element pattern a distinct 'humped' appearance. Bulk-rock trace element abundance patterns have been reconstructed from measured trace element contents in garnet as well as calculated trace element concentrations in clinopyroxene, based on known clinopyroxene-garnet partition coefficients (Harte and Kirkley, 1997). At both Premier and Finsch, the low-Ca group samples (2.6 to 5.0. wt.% CaO in garnet) are LREE depleted, and have relatively flat calculated bulk-rock trace element abundance patterns at approximately 10 times chondrite concentrations, but with marked positive Sr and negative Zr anomalies. The intermediate-Ca group samples (5.2 to ~9. wt.% CaO in garnet) are LREE depleted, show Sr and Zr anomalies, have somewhat higher concentrations of Zr and MREE, and have HREE contents that overlap with the low-Ca group (Fig. 6). High-Ca group samples (~. 9 to 14.8. wt.% CaO in garnet) are LREE depleted, show Sr and Zr anomalies, are MREE-enriched, and have HREE contents that are slightly less than the low- and intermediate-Ca group samples. Based on both the calculated bulk eclogite trace element abundances and their patterns, as well as previously published radiogenic isotope data, our preferred model of protolith evolution for the eclogitic diamonds from Premier and Finsch is one in which both the major and trace element chemistry of the inclusions are ultimately inherited from low-pressure oceanic protoliths, consisting of varying mixtures of oceanic basalt. +. cumulate gabbro for diamonds from both Premier and Finsch. Of particular importance in the current data are the presence of marked negative Zr anomalies, marked positive Sr anomalies, and a general absence of Eu anomalies in all compositional groupings. The Zr anomaly can arise in reconstructed bulk eclogite trace element abundance patterns if rutile is not included in the calculations, but the Sr anomalies (coupled with an absence of Eu anomalies) can only be explained through the mixing of oceanic gabbro and mid-ocean ridge basalt. The averaged eclogite bulk trace element compositions for Premier and Finsch are also markedly similar to that of clinopyroxene in a typical cumulate gabbro, and a role for cumulate clinopyroxene in protolith evolution may therefore also be inferred. It is likely that prior to and during diamond crystallisation, the major and particularly the trace element compositions of the high-pressure eclogite source rock to these diamonds may have been slightly modified by metasomatic fluids and melts. However large-scale fluid- or melt-related metasomatic processes are not indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-168
Number of pages13
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Diamond
  • Eclogite
  • Kimberlite
  • Lithosphere
  • Trace elements

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