A new, curious mineral has been discovered inside a diamond unearthed from a mine in South Africa. The mineral has been named goldschmidtite, after Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, the Norwegian scientist acknowledged as the founder of modern geochemistry. It has been described in the journal American Mineralogist.
Goldschmidtite has an unusual chemical signature for a mineral from Earth’s mantle, according to the University of Alberta, a student of which discovered it. While the mantle is dominated by elements such as magnesium and iron, goldschmidtite has high concentrations of niobium, potassium and the rare earth elements lanthanum and cerium.
PhD student Nicole Meyer found a single grain of the mineral in the diamond, unearthed in Koffiefontein, South Africa. The university described it as dark green and opaque.
Though the mantle makes up about 80 per cent of the Earth’s volume, very little is known about it. Reaching the mantle is not easy; it is about 2,900 km thick and no attempt to drill into it has been successful.
Diamonds hold clues as they are found up to 160 km beneath the surface, in the upper mantle.
Diamonds that are unearthed were brought up closer to the surface, probably as a result of violent volcanic eruptions when the Earth was hotter, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
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