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Chemical and Mineralogical Characterization of Micro-Inclusions in Diamonds


Navon, Oded (1989) Chemical and Mineralogical Characterization of Micro-Inclusions in Diamonds. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/A88J-S465.


Secondary-ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), electron probe analysis (EPMA), analytical scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and infrared (IR) spectroscopy were used to determine the chemical composition and the mineralogy of sub-micrometer inclusions in cubic diamonds and in overgrowths (coats) on octahedral diamonds from Zaire, Botswana, and some unknown localities.

The inclusions are sub-micrometer in size. The typical diameter encountered during transmission electron microscope (TEM) examination was 0.1-0.5 µm. The micro-inclusions are sub-rounded and their shape is crystallographically controlled by the diamond. Normally they are not associated with cracks or dislocations and appear to be well isolated within the diamond matrix. The number density of inclusions is highly variable on any scale and may reach 10¹¹ inclusions/cm³ in the most densely populated zones. The total concentration of metal oxides in the diamonds varies between 20 and 1270 ppm (by weight).

SIMS analysis yields the average composition of about 100 inclusions contained in the sputtered volume. Comparison of analyses of different volumes of an individual diamond show roughly uniform composition (typically ±10% relative). The variation among the average compositions of different diamonds is somewhat greater (typically ±30%). Nevertheless, all diamonds exhibit similar characteristics, being rich in water, carbonate, SiO₂, and K₂O, and depleted in MgO. The composition of micro-inclusions in most diamonds vary within the following ranges: SiO₂, 30-53%; K₂O, 12-30%; CaO, 8-19%; FeO, 6-11%; Al₂O₃, 3-6%; MgO, 2-6%; TiO₂, 2-4%; Na₂O, 1-5%; P₂O₅, 1-4%; and Cl, 1-3%. In addition, BaO, 1-4%; SrO, 0.7-1.5%; La₂O₃, 0.1-0.3%; Ce₂O₃, 0.3-0.5%; smaller amounts of other rare-earth elements (REE), as well as Mn, Th, and U were also detected by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Mg/(Fe+Mg), 0.40-0.62 is low compared with other mantle derived phases; K/AI ratios of 2-7 are very high, and the chondrite-normalized Ce/Eu ratios of 10-21 are also high, indicating extremely fractionated REE patterns.

SEM analyses indicate that individual inclusions within a single diamond are roughly of similar composition. The average composition of individual inclusions as measured with the SEM is similar to that measured by SIMS. Compositional variations revealed by the SEM are larger than those detected by SIMS and indicate a small variability in the composition of individual inclusions. No compositions of individual inclusions were determined that might correspond to mono-mineralic inclusions.

IR spectra of inclusion- bearing zones exhibit characteristic absorption due to: (1) pure diamonds, (2) nitrogen and hydrogen in the diamond matrix; and (3) mineral phases in the micro-inclusions. Nitrogen concentrations of 500-1100 ppm, typical of the micro-inclusion-bearing zones, are higher than the average nitrogen content of diamonds. Only type IaA centers were detected by IR. A yellow coloration may indicate small concentration of type IB centers.

The absorption due to the micro-inclusions in all diamonds produces similar spectra and indicates the presence of hydrated sheet silicates (most likely, Fe-rich clay minerals), carbonates (most likely calcite), and apatite. Small quantities of molecular CO₂ are also present in most diamonds. Water is probably associated with the silicates but the possibility of its presence as a fluid phase cannot be excluded. Characteristic lines of olivine, pyroxene and garnet were not detected and these phases cannot be significant components of the inclusions. Preliminary quantification of the IR data suggests that water and carbonate account for, on average, 20-40 wt% of the micro-inclusions.

The composition and mineralogy of the micro-inclusions are completely different from those of the more common, larger inclusions of the peridotitic or eclogitic assemblages. Their bulk composition resembles that of potassic magmas, such as kimberlites and lamproites, but is enriched in H₂O, CO⁼₃, K₂O, and incompatible elements, and depleted in MgO.

It is suggested that the composition of the micro-inclusions represents a volatile-rich fluid or a melt trapped by the diamond during its growth. The high content of K, Na, P, and incompatible elements suggests that the trapped material found in the micro-inclusions may represent an effective metasomatizing agent. It may also be possible that fluids of similar composition are responsible for the extreme enrichment of incompatible elements documented in garnet and pyroxene inclusions in diamonds.

The origin of the fluid trapped in the micro-inclusions is still uncertain. It may have been formed by incipient melting of a highly metasomatized mantle rocks. More likely, it is the result of fractional crystallization of a potassic parental magma at depth. In either case, the micro-inclusions document the presence of highly potassic fluids or melts at depths corresponding to the diamond stability field in the upper mantle. The phases presently identified in the inclusions are believed to be the result of closed system reactions at lower pressures.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wasserburg, Gerald J. (advisor)
  • Taylor, Hugh P. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Taylor, Hugh P. (chair)
  • Armstrong, John T.
  • Hutcheon, Ian D.
  • Rossman, George Robert
  • Stolper, Edward M.
  • Wasserburg, Gerald J.
  • Wyllie, Peter J.
Defense Date:4 January 1989
Non-Caltech Author Email:oded.navon (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10232013-113130725
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Appendix C.1 and D.1 adapted for Appendix C.2 adapted for Appendix C.3
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8006
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:23 Oct 2013 20:43
Last Modified:15 Sep 2021 00:29

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