Diamond is essentially impermeable and unreactive under many conditions, and tiny mineral inclusions within natural diamonds can faithfully preserve information on the chemical and physical conditions during diamond growth. The stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur in diamonds and their mineral inclusions have been used to constrain models of diamond formation, but interpretations of the data have differed dramatically. The crux of the controversy lies in the interpretation of the carbon isotope ratios of eclogite-suite diamonds, which range well outside those expected for typical mantle materials such as peridotites, basalts, and carbonatites. Proposed explanations for these anomalous carbon isotope ratios include derivation from primordial mantle inhomogeneities, fractionated mantle fluids, and subducted biogenic carbon. Working with samples from three continents, we have analyzed the carbon isotope compositions of eclogite-suite diamonds and the oxygen isotope composition of their mineral inclusions, primarily by ion microprobe methods. We have discovered a previously unrecognized, remarkably consistent anticorrelation between these two isotopic systems, in that virtually all diamonds with anomalously low carbon isotope ratios have silicate inclusions with anomalously high oxygen isotope ratios. This is a fundamental observation that can only be explained by formation of eclogite-suite diamonds through subduction of seafloor altered basalt, admixed with marine biogenic carbon, into the field of diamond stability.

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