An infrared investigation of inclusion-bearing diamonds from the Venetia kimberlite, Northern Province, South Africa: Implications for diamonds from craton-margin settings

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The Venetia kimberlites in the Northern Province of South Africa sampled diamonds from the lithosphere underlying the Central Zone of the Limpopo Belt. Given the general correlation of diamond-bearing kimberlites with old stable cratons, this tectonic setting is somewhat anomalous and, therefore, it is desirable to characterise the diamonds in terms of their infrared characteristics. A suite of diamonds of known paragenesis from the Venetia mine spans a large range of nitrogen concentrations from less than the detection limit to 1,355 ppm. Diamond nitrogen contents are, on average, higher in the eclogitic diamond population relative to the websteritic and periodotitic diamonds. Nitrogen aggregation states are variable, ranging from almost pure type IaA diamond (poorly aggregated nitrogen) to pure type IaB diamond (highly aggregated nitrogen). On a nitrogen aggregation diagram two distinct groups can be identified based on nitrogen content and nitrogen aggregation state. These are a minor population of diamonds with nitrogen contents generally higher than 500 ppm and nitrogen aggregation states of less than 40% IaB, and another, dominant population that is characterised by higher and more variable nitrogen aggregation. The unusually aggregated nature of the majority of the diamonds analysed is unique to Venetia relative to other intrusives on the Kaapvaal- Kalahari craton, but is similar to aggregation states observed for diamonds from other craton margin or adjacent mobile belt settings such as the Argyle lamproite and the George Creek kimberlite. This could be a consequence of diamond mantle residence at mantle temperatures higher than the norm for other kimberlites from the interior of cratons. Deformation of the mantle, associated with dynamic processes such as orogenesis or subduction, might also be responsible for accelerating the rate of nitrogen aggregation in these diamonds. Low numbers of diamonds with degradation of platelets at the Venetia kimberlite, relative to diamonds from the Argyle lamproite, indicate that deformation was at a significantly lower level. The comparatively low value of diamonds from Argyle (at approximately US$8/carat) as opposed to Venetia (US$90/carat) is in large part because of the very high abundance of brown diamonds at Argyle. Therefore, it is apparent that deformational history of the mantle in which the diamonds were resident prior to or during sampling by the host may have an important role to play in the profitability of a primary diamond deposit. The apparently consistent association of diamonds with unusually aggregated nitrogen with kimberlites, or lamproites intruded into craton margin or mobile belt settings suggests that it may be possible to recognise such contributory sources in alluvial diamond deposits, through the study of the infrared characteristics of the diamonds. Electronic supplementary material to this paper can be obtained by using the Springer Link server located at 10.1007/s00410-002-0385-2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-108
Number of pages11
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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