Abstract

Significant uncertainty surrounds the processes involved in the formation of basalt-hosted corundum, particularly the role that the mantle plays in corundum generation. Some previous studies have suggested that trace-element ratios (namely, Cr/Ga and Ga/Mg) are useful for distinguishing two types of corundum: ‘magmatic’ and ‘metamorphic’, designations that include mantle and crustal processes. However, recent studies, including this one, have discovered transitional groups between these end-members that are difficult to classify. We used laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS) to measure trace-element concentrations in sapphire and ruby crystals from eight alluvial deposits that span a significant length of the eastern Australian gemstone belt. Additionally, we collected LA–ICP–MS U–Pb and trace-element data from zircon megacrysts at Weldborough, Tasmania, which is also within the gemstone belt. Our sapphire and ruby results reveal a continuum in trace-element compositions, an observation that raises questions regarding previous classifications that ascribe corundum from basalt-hosted gemfields to either ‘magmatic’ or ‘metamorphic’ sources. The spatial association of basalt-related gemfields in eastern Australia with a long-lived convergent margin suggests a link between corundum formation and Al-enrichment of the mantle wedge during periods of subduction.

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