SCIENCE MYTH BUSTER

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ARE DIAMONDS MADE OF COAL?

Many people believe that diamonds are formed from the metamorphism of coal. That idea continues to be the "how diamonds form" story in many science classrooms. 


Geologists believe that the diamonds in all of Earth's commercial diamond deposits were formed in the mantle and delivered to the surface by deep-source volcanic eruptions. These eruptions produce the kimberlite and lamproite pipes that are sought after by diamond prospectors. Diamonds weathered and eroded from these eruptive deposits are now contained in the sedimentary (placer) deposits of streams and coastlines.

Is coal involved? Coal is a sedimentary rock, formed from plant debris deposited at Earth's surface. It is rarely buried to depths greater than two miles (3.2 kilometers). It is very unlikely that coal has been moved from the crust down to a depth well below the base of a continental plate. The carbon source for these mantle diamonds is most likely carbon trapped in Earth's interior at the time of the planet's formation.

SCIENTIFIC REASONING

The most convincing evidence that coal did not play a role in the formation of most diamonds is a comparison between the age of Earth's diamonds and the age of the earliest land plants.

Almost every diamond that has been dated formed during the Precambrian Eon - the span of time between Earth's formation (about 4,600 million years ago) and the start of the Cambrian Period (about 542 million years ago). In contrast, the earliest land plants did not appear on Earth until about 450 million years ago - nearly 100 million years after the formation of virtually all of Earth's natural diamonds.



Since coal is formed from terrestrial plant debris and the oldest land plants are younger than almost every diamond that has ever been dated, it is easy to conclude that coal did not play a significant role in the formation of Earth's diamonds.

DIAMONDS ARE PRECIOUS, DON'T RELATE THEM TO CHEAP COAL 

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