Sublithospheric diamonds and the inclusions they may carry crystallize in the asthenosphere, transition zone, or uppermost lower mantle (from 300 to ∼800 km), and are the deepest minerals so far recognized to form by plate tectonics. These diamonds are distinctive in their deformation features, low nitrogen content, and inclusions of these major mantle minerals: majoritic garnet, clinopyroxene, ringwoodite, CaSi perovskite, ferropericlase, and bridgmanite or their retrograde equivalents. The stable isotopic compositions of elements within these diamonds (δ11B, δ13C, δ15N) and their inclusions (δ18O, δ56Fe) are typically well outside normal mantle ranges, showing that these elements were either organic (C) or modified by seawater alteration (B, O, Fe) at relatively low temperatures. Metamorphic minerals in cold slabs are effective hosts that transport C as CO and H as HO, OH, or CH below the island arc and mantle wedge. Warming of the slab generates carbonatitic melts, supercritical aqueous fluids, or metallic liquids, forming three types of sublithospheric diamonds. Diamond crystallization occurs by movement and reduction of mobile fluids as they pass through host mantle via fractures—a process that creates chemical heterogeneity and may promote deep focus earthquakes. Geobarometry of majoritic garnet inclusions and diamond ages suggest upward transport, perhaps to the base of mantle lithosphere. From there, diamonds are carried to Earth's surface by eruptions of kimberlite magma. Mineral assemblages in sublithospheric diamonds directly trace Earth's deep volatile cycle, demonstrating how the hydrosphere of a rocky planet can connect to its solid interior.

  • ▪  Sublithospheric diamonds from the deep upper mantle, transition zone, and lower mantle host Earth's deepest obtainable mineral samples.
  • ▪  Low-temperature seawater alteration of the ocean floor captures organic and inorganic carbon at the surface eventually to become some of the most precious gem diamonds.
  • ▪  Subduction transports fluids in metamorphic minerals to great depth. Fluids released by slab heating migrate, react with host mantle to induce diamond crystallization, and may trigger earthquakes.
  • ▪  Sublithospheric diamonds are powerful tracers of subduction—a plate tectonic process that deeply recycles part of Earth's planetary volatile budget.

Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 52 is May 2024. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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