Crowningshieldite is the natural analog of the synthetic compound α-NiS. It has a NiAs-type structure and is the high-temperature polymorph relative to millerite (β-NiS), with an inversion temperature of 379 °C. Crowningshieldite is hexagonal, space group P63/mmc, with a = 3.44(1) Å, c = 5.36(1) Å, V = 55.0(2) Å3, and Z = 2. It has an empirical formula (Ni0.90Fe0.10)S and dcalc = 5.47(1) g/cm3. The five strongest lines in the powder X-ray diffraction data are [dmeas in angstroms (I) (hkl)]: 1.992 (100) (102), 1.718 (55) (110), 2.978 (53) (100), 2.608 (35) (101), and 1.304 (17) (202). Crowningshieldite was found as part of a multiphase inclusion in a gem-quality, colorless, type IIa (containing less than ~5 ppm N) diamond from the Letseng mine, Lesotho. The inclusion contains crowningshieldite along with magnetite-magnesioferrite, hematite, and graphite. A fracture was observed that extended from the inclusion to the diamond exterior, meaning that fluids, possibly kimberlite-related, could have penetrated into this fracture and altered the inclusion. Originally, the inclusion might have been a more reduced, metallic Fe-Ni-C-S mixture made up of cohenite, Fe-Ni alloy, and pyrrhotite, akin to the other fracture-free, pristine inclusions within the same diamond. Such metallic Fe-Ni-C-S primary inclusions are a notable recurring feature of similar type IIa diamonds from Letseng and elsewhere that have been shown to originate from the sublithospheric mantle.
The discovery of crowningshieldite confirms that the α-NiS polymorph occurs in nature. In this case, the reason for its preservation is unclear, but the relatively iron-rich composition [Fe/(Fe+Ni) = 0.1] or the confining pressure of the diamond host are potential factors impeding its transformation to millerite. The new mineral name honors G. Robert Crowningshield (1919–2006) (IMA2018-072).