Davemaoite hitched a ride inside a diamond that was traveling upward from the planet’s lower mantle.
Quartz. Feldspar. Micah. Fluorite. You don’t have to be a geologist to recognize many of the common, familiar minerals on Earth. But what about devmaoite? It’s okay if you’ve never heard of it. This is a new discovery.
A team of geochemists found the mineral in inclusions deep inside diamonds. “There’s just one catch: It shouldn’t be here,” the University of Nevada, Las Vegas said in a statement Monday. The researchers found the mineral at least 410 miles (660 kilometers) deep inside the planet’s lower mantle, between the core and crust.
UNLV said it was “the first time lower mantle minerals have been observed in nature.” The mineral was safely preserved in diamonds mined from Botswana and sold by a gemstone dealer in 1987. Dewamoite would not normally be able to maintain its structure outside the high-pressure environment of Earth’s mantle, but diamonds are famously strong.
“To jewelers and buyers, a diamond’s size, color and clarity are all that matter, and inclusions—those dark spots that haunt the jeweler—to us, they are a gift,” said mineralogist Oliver Tschuner. “I think we were very surprised. We didn’t expect it.”
Tschauner is lead author of a study on the mineral published last week in the journal Science. The researchers analyzed the internal structure of the diamond and found a calcium silicate compound (CaSiO₃-perovskite) inside. He named it “Dawemaoite” for the pioneering geophysicist Ho-Kwang “Dave” Mao.
The International Mineralogical Association approved the new natural mineral and added it to the list of minerals. You might not be able to add Davemaoite to your personal rock collection, but you can admire its remarkable journey into the hands of science.