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Pink diamonds were formed when supercontinent Nuna broke up

Western Australian scientists have recently unearthed a tantalizing story behind the formation of pink diamonds, connecting it to the ancient supercontinent, Nuna, and the mysterious geological activities it experienced over 1.3 billion years ago.

The detailed study, showcased in the Journal of Natural Communications, brings to light the secrets behind the coveted pink diamond.

The pink diamond enigma

Pink diamonds, with their mesmerizing hue, are not only rare but also different in nature compared to their blue or yellow counterparts.

While the latter derive their colors from impurities like nitrogen and boron, the allure of pink diamonds stems from their uniquely bent crystalline structure. This very aspect makes them one of the most sought-after gemstones in the world, with prices for the highest grade reaching into the tens of millions.

The depths of the Argyle Deposit

The Argyle diamond deposit in Western Australia served as the playground for this groundbreaking research. The lead study author, Dr. Hugo Olierook, from Curtin University’s John de Laeter Center, shared intriguing insights into the discovery.

“The area where Argyle is situated underwent stretching during the continent’s formative years,” he said. This stretching along scars created openings in the Earth’s crust, through which magma surged upwards, bringing the precious pink diamonds to the surface.

Collision and transformation

The study posits that the reason behind the pink coloration of these diamonds is linked to a monumental collision.

Around 1.8 billion years ago, Western Australia and Northern Australia collided in a cataclysmic event. This impact is believed to have been the catalyst that transformed once-colorless diamonds into their pink variants.

New age, new pink diamond findings

Utilizing advanced laser technology, the scientists analyzed minerals and rocks from the Argyle deposit. Their research pinpointed the formation of the pink-diamond site to the period when Nuna was breaking apart.

This discovery also corrected a previously held belief. Olierook mentioned, “Our findings indicate that Argyle is 1.3 billion years old, which is a hundred million years older than what was previously estimated.”

In the quest to understand the age of these rocks, researchers in the 1980s attempted studies, but technical limitations led them to an approximated age of 1.2 billion years.

Interestingly, Olierook’s team, equipped with cutting-edge technology, found resonating similarities with this older study. This lends credence to both sets of findings.

Hidden treasures await

One of the most captivating revelations from Dr. Olierook’s research pertains to the Argyle deposit’s unique position. “Argyle is situated at the meeting point of two ancient continents,” Olierook explains.

These boundaries are often obscured by sand and soil, suggesting that more pink diamond-laden volcanoes might remain hidden, waiting to be discovered, perhaps even within Australia.

The allure of pink diamonds has always been entwined with tales of luxury and rarity. But now, thanks to the relentless pursuits of scientists like Dr. Hugo Olierook and his team, we also understand the profound geological tapestry behind these gems, weaving a story that began over a billion years ago.

More about supercontinent Nuna

Long before our current continents took shape, Nuna, an ancient supercontinent, graced our planet’s surface. Scientists believe Nuna existed around 1.6 to 2.5 billion years ago, predating even the famous Pangea by a considerable margin.

Researchers actively map Nuna’s formation by piecing together geological and paleomagnetic data. These clues suggest that Nuna brought together fragments of what we now identify as North America, northern Europe, and parts of Siberia.

What makes Nuna’s story especially captivating is its dynamic nature. Throughout its lifespan, the supercontinent experienced multiple cycles of coming together and breaking apart. Each phase of assembly and dispersal reshaped the Earth’s surface. These changes gave rise to new geological formations, laying the groundwork for subsequent continents.

One of the most intriguing findings about Nuna lies in its connection to Earth’s atmospheric evolution. As Nuna formed, volcanic activities increased. These volcanoes released vast amounts of carbon dioxide, playing a pivotal role in shaping the planet’s early atmospheric conditions and potentially influencing the course of life.

Today, researchers continue to uncover Nuna’s secrets, hoping to gain deeper insights into our planet’s formative years. Every discovery not only reshapes our understanding of Earth’s history but also underlines the ever-evolving nature of our home planet.

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