Comparison of enigmatic diamonds from the Tolbachik arc volcano (Kamchatka)and Tibetan ophiolites: Assessing the role of contamination by synthetic materials

K. D. Litasov, H. Kagi, S. A. Voropaev, T. Hirata, H. Ohfuji, H. Ishibashi, Y. Makino, T. B. Bekker, V. S. Sevastyanov, V. P. Afanasiev, N. P. Pokhilenko

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18 Citations (Scopus)


The enigmatic appearance of cuboctahedral diamonds in ophiolitic and arc volcanic rocks with morphology and infrared characteristics similar to synthetic diamonds that were grown from metal solvent requires a critical reappraisal. We have studied 15 diamond crystals and fragments from Tolbachik volcano lava flows, using Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FTIR), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (SRXRF)and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass-spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). FTIR spectra of Tolbachik diamonds correspond to typical type Ib patterns of synthetic diamonds. In TEM films prepared using focused ion beam technique, we find Mn-Ni and Mn-Si inclusions in Tolbachik diamonds. SRXRF spectra indicate the presence of Fe-Ni and Fe-Ni-Mn inclusions with Cr, Ti, Cu, and Zn impurities. LA-ICP-MS data show variable but significantly elevated concentrations of Mn, Fe, Ni, and Cu reaching up to 70 ppm. These transition metal concentration levels are comparable with those determined by LA-ICP-MS for similar diamonds from Tibetan ophiolites. Mn-Ni (+Fe)solvent was widely used to produce industrial synthetic diamonds in the former USSR and Russia with very similar proportions of these metals. Hence, it appears highly probable that the cuboctahedral diamonds recovered from Kamchatka arc volcanic rocks represent contamination and are likely derived from drilling tools or other hard instruments. Kinetic data on diamond dissolution in basaltic magma or in fluid phase demonstrate that diamond does not form under the pressures and temperature conditions prevalent within the magmatic system beneath the modern-day Klyuchevskoy group of arc volcanoes. We also considered reference data for inclusions in ophiolitic diamonds and compared them with the composition of solvent used in industrial diamond synthesis in China. The similar inclusion chemistry close to Ni70Mn25Co5 for ophiolitic and synthetic Chinese diamonds scrutinized here suggests that most diamonds recovered from Tibetan and other ophiolites are not natural but instead have a synthetic origin. In order to mitigate further dubious reports of diamonds from unconventional tectonic settings and source rocks, we propose a set of discrimination criteria to better distinguish natural cuboctahedral diamonds from those produced synthetically in industrial environments and found as contaminants in mantle- and crust-derived rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-27
Number of pages12
JournalGondwana Research
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov
Externally publishedYes


  • Basalts
  • Cuboctahedral diamond
  • HPHT growth
  • Kamchatka
  • Magma
  • Synthetic diamond

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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