Hadean diamonds in zircon from Jack Hills, Western Australia

Abstract

Detrital zircons more than 4 billion years old from the Jack Hills metasedimentary belt, Yilgarn craton, Western Australia, are the oldest identified fragments of the Earth’s crust1,2 and are unique in preserving information on the earliest evolution of the Earth. Inclusions of quartz, K-feldspar and monazite in the zircons3, in combination with an enrichment of light rare-earth elements4,5 and an estimated low zircon crystallization temperature6, have previously been used as evidence for early recycling of continental crust, leading to the production of granitic melts in the Hadean era. Here we present the discovery of microdiamond inclusions in Jack Hills zircons with an age range from 3,058 ± 7 to 4,252 ± 7 million years. These include the oldest known diamonds found in terrestrial rocks, and introduce a new dimension to the debate on the origin of these zircons and the evolution of the early Earth6,7,8,9,10. The spread of ages indicates that either conditions required for diamond formation were repeated several times during early Earth history or that there was significant recycling of ancient diamond. Mineralogical features of the Jack Hills diamonds—such as their occurrence in zircon, their association with graphite and their Raman spectroscopic characteristics—resemble those of diamonds formed during ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism and, unless conditions on the early Earth were unique, imply a relatively thick continental lithosphere and crust–mantle interaction at least 4,250 million years ago.

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Figure 1: Representative Raman spectra of diamond and graphite inclusions in zircon from Jack Hills.
Figure 2: Raman data from diamond inclusions in the Jack Hill zircons, from diamond polishing particles, and from diamonds of different geological origin.
Figure 3: Mineralogical features of diamond inclusions in Jack Hills zircon samples. a–c, Grain JH15-142; d–f, grain JH3-20.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a Curtin University grant to A.A.N. and S. A.W. We further acknowledge the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for financial support. We also wish to thank E. Scherer, F. Tomaschek and I. Fitzsimons for discussions on earlier versions of the manuscript and J. Schlüter from the Mineralogical Museum of the University of Hamburg and A. Bischoff for providing diamond samples for comparative Raman measurements.

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Correspondence to Martina Menneken or Thorsten Geisler.

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Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Tables S1-S2. The Supplementary Table S1 details U, Th, Pb- Isotope SHRIMP data of diamond-bearing zircon grains from Jack Hills, Western Australia. Inclusion paragenesis, and Raman data of the diamond inclusions. The Supplementary Table S2 details Raman-data of reference diamonds. (PDF 501 kb)

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Menneken, M., Nemchin, A., Geisler, T. et al. Hadean diamonds in zircon from Jack Hills, Western Australia. Nature 448, 917–920 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06083

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