Surprised scientists discover new mineral on Earth’s surface

This diamond protected the davemaoite mineral and allowed it to appear on the earth’s surface.

Aaron Celestian, Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

Quartz. Feldspar. Mica. Fluorite. You do not have to be a geologist to recognize a lot of the common, well-known minerals on Earth. But what about davemaoite? It’s ok if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a new discovery.

A team of geochemists found the mineral in dark inclusions inside a diamond. “There is only one catch: it should not be here,” the University of Nevada, Las Vegas said in a statement Monday. The scientists traced the mineral to at least 410 miles (660 kilometers) down in the planet’s lower mantle between the core and the crust.

UNLV said it is “the first time lower cladding minerals have ever been observed in the wild.” The mineral was randomly preserved in a diamond extracted from Botswana and sold by a gemstone dealer in 1987. Davemaoite would not normally be able to maintain its structure outside the high-pressure environment of the Earth’s mantle, but diamonds are famously strong.

“For jewelers and buyers, the size, color and clarity of a diamond are all too important, and inclusions – the black spots that irritate the jeweler – for us they are a gift,” said mineralogist Oliver Tschauner. “I think we were very surprised. We did not expect that.”

Tschauner is the lead author of a study of the mineral published in the journal Science last week. The researchers analyzed the inner structure of the diamond and found the calcium silicate compound (CaSiO₃ perovskite) inside. They called it “davemaoite” for the pioneering geophysicist Ho-kwang “Dave” Mao.

The International Mineralogical Association approved the new natural mineral and added it to its list of minerals. You may not be able to add davemaoite to your personal stone collection, but you can admire its remarkable journey in the hands of science.

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