Rough diamond proves vast oceans worth of water inside Earth

Diamond from Earth's 'wet zone'Tiny and battered, a diamond found in gravel strewn along a riverbed in Brazil has provided evidence of a vast “wet zone” deep inside the Earth that could hold as much water as all the world’s oceans combined.

The water is not moving around inside our planet, but is held within minerals in what is known as the Earth’s transition zone, which stretches from 250-400 miles beneath the surface.

“It’s not a Jules Verne-style ocean you can sail a boat on,” said Graham Pearson, a geologist who studied the stone at the University of Alberta. The water-rich zone could transform scientists’ understanding of how some of the Earth’s geological features arose.

Tests on the diamond revealed that it contained a water-rich mineral formed in the zone. Researchers believe that the gemstone, which is oblong and about 5mm long, was blasted to the surface from a depth of about 500km by a volcanic eruption of molten rock called kimberlite.

The battle-scarred gem has a slight metallic sheen, but is pitted and etched from its violent trip, which probably took several days and ended with the stone shooting up through the Earth’s crust at a speed of about 40mph.

“It’s a fairly ugly diamond. It looks like it’s been to hell and back,” said Pearson, adding that the gem was worth about $20 at most. The stone was found in 2008 by artisan miners working the Juína riverbeds in Mato Grosso in western Brazil.

Water in mantleAlmost all diamonds used in jewelery form at much shallower depths, about 100 miles down. Those that form in the transition zone are called super-deep diamonds and are distinguished by their battered appearance and low nitrogen content.

Pearson and his team were testing the diamond to find minerals they could use to work out its age. But by chance they discovered a speck of mineral called ringwoodite, a type of olivine that forms under extremely high pressures. The mineral inclusion was too small to see with the eye.

Without the diamond – and the water-rich mineral inside it – scientists had no hope of confirming the make-up of material so deep inside the Earth’s interior. “No one is ever going to run a geological field trip to the transition zone 500km beneath the Earth’s surface, and no one is ever going to drill down to the transition zone,” said Pearson. “It was a total piece of luck that we found this.”

For decades, scientists have suspected that ringwoodite made up much of the deep Earth, because olivine is so widespread underground. But no one had ever found any ringwoodite from the Earth’s interior that proved the idea beyond doubt. In the transition zone where the diamond and its ringwoodite was formed, the pressure reaches 200,000 atmospheres.

Tests on the mineral found that about 1.5% of its weight is water. “That doesn’t sound like much, but when you calculate the vast volumes of ringwoodite thought to exist in the deep Earth, the amount of water might be as high as that contained in all the world’s oceans,” Pearson told the Guardian. That amounts to more than one billion billion tonnes of water.

At the very least, the scientists say, there must be local wet spots or “oases” in the Earth’s interior. “The beauty of this diamond is that it gives us a real sample from those depths,” Pearson said. The diamond is described in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

A vast water store in the Earth’s mantle could help geologists explain some strange things seen on the planet’s surface. Water in the transition zone could dissolve in molten magma and reach the undersides of continental plates, where it would weaken the huge slabs of rock. That could create weak spots prone to volcanoes, and even cause “uplift”, where the land rises up.

Hans Keppler, at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, said: “Until now, nobody had ever seen ringwoodite from the Earth’s mantle, although geophysicists were sure that it must exist. Most people, including me, never expected to see such a sample.”

Custom Million Dollar iPhone!

Gold & Diamond iPhone Apple iPhones have a reputation for being fragile at the best of times, but a jeweler has created a model so expensive that its owner might want to keep it in the box.

The handset, built by London-based jewellery firm Alchemist, is the world’s most expensive iPhone with a £600,000 ($1 million) price tag.

Dubbed Million Dollar iPhone, the handset has a handmade, 24-carat gold bezel and is covered in 700 individual diamonds, totaling over seven carats.

The navigation button is also made from 24-carat gold and has a two carat diamond cut into the center.

The spokesman added: ‘Meticulous, painstaking, and methodical are the closest words with which to describe the creative process.

The design has been called, ‘A challenge of epic aesthetic and technical proportions.

Only two of the handsets will be sold, with prospective buyers being asked to formally register their interest on either of the company’s two websites, the-million-dollar-iphone.com and gold-alchemist.com.

Diamond Fluorescence: A Consumer’s Guide

Robert Klose, a GIA graduate gemologist and jewelry professional here at Images Jewelers, explains diamond fluorescence in simple terms.

Eureka! Couple finds $10 million in gold coins in their backyard.

gold coinsA husband and wife are reveling in their good fortune after finding millions in rare gold coins buried on their property in Northern California.

Some dream of roaming the Earth to hunt buried treasure. This Sierra Nevada couple didn’t have to go that far. They dug it up in their backyard – about $10 million worth, in 19th century U.S. gold coins stuffed into rusty cans.

It’s believed to the biggest hoard of gold coins ever unearthed in the United States. And it’s going on sale soon.

The bonanza emerged last year as the man and woman were walking their dog on their property in the Gold Country and noticed the top of a decaying canister poking out of the ground.

They dug it out with a stick, took it to their house and opened it up. Inside was what looked like a batch of discs covered in dirt from holes rotted through the can.

They weren’t just discs.

A little brushing revealed nearly perfectly preserved $20 gold coins with liberty head designs on the front, dated from the 1890s. They ran back to the same spot, and when they were done digging, they’d found a total of eight cans containing 1,427 coins – with a face value of $27,980.

A total of 1,373 were $20 coins, 50 were $10 coins and four were $5 coins. They were dated from 1847 to 1894, and after sprucing up they shone like, well, gold – which fortunately never corrodes. About a third of the coins were in pristine condition, having never been circulated for spending. Most were minted in San Francisco.

“It was a very surreal moment. It was very hard to believe at first,” the man said in an interview taped by the rare-coin dealer he eventually consulted to make sense of the find. “I thought any second an old miner with a mule was going to appear.”

Staying secret

The couple are keeping their identities and location secret for many reasons, the main one being to prevent treasure hunters from ripping up their land with backhoes. But they’ve allowed coin dealer Don Kagin of Tiburon, who helped evaluate some of the biggest sunken treasure finds in history, to offer the collection up for sale.

It’s dubbed the Saddle Ridge Hoard, after the spot on the couple’s property where it was found. The collection is expected to sell for at least $10 million, either as a whole or in pieces, based on the evaluated condition of the coins.

“You hear all those Wild West stories of buried treasure, and you think they’re fantasies – well here, this one really did happen,” Kagin said the other day as he and his senior numismatist, David McCarthy, laid out dozens of the coins and cans for inspection at their office. “And what is almost unbelievable about this collection is what pristine condition so many of them are in.”

According to “American Coin Treasures and Hoards,” the bible of buried treasure finds, the biggest hoard of gold coins dug up before Saddle Ridge was a collection found by construction workers in Jackson, Tenn., in 1985. It had a face value of $4,500 and sold for $1 million.

Kagin and McCarthy met with the couple in April, two months after the hoard was dug up and the inevitable attorneys had gotten involved.

“The first thing the family did after finding all the cans was rebury them in a cooler under their woodpile,” McCarthy said. “They were terrified and had to think about what to do.”

‘Mind-blowing’ discovery

He said when he first sat with the couple to examine the find, “the family had cut little squares into some foam and put 18 of the coins in the squares in a cigar box. I pulled out the first coin, and it was from 1890. It had dirt on it, but when I looked close, it dawned on me just exactly what it was.

“I almost fell out of my chair. It was mind-blowing. I was literally sitting with the most amazing buried treasure I’ve ever heard of.”

He spent the next several months restoring the coins – a job so consuming that “my fingers bled,” McCarthy said. It then took until this month for them all to be appraised and readied for sale.

March Birthstone: Aquamarine

Aquamarine RingAquamarine is the traditional birthstone for the month of March.  It is a form of beryl, which is the same mineral family that emerald belongs to.  Unlike emerald, aquamarine is tough and durable, which makes it wonderful for jewelry. After all, it is graded a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohls hardness scale.  Aquamarine is most famous for its breathtaking sea-blue colors, which can range from light blue to dark blue.  But the aquamarines that are deeply colored blue have higher values. The best gems combine high clarity with limpid transparency and blue to slightly greenish blue hues. Like many beryls, aquamarine forms large crystals suitable for sizable fashioned gems and carvings.

The name “aquamarine” is derived from two Latin words: aqua, meaning “water,” and marina, meaning “of the sea.” This association with the sea made it “The Sailors’ Gem”, promising prosperous and safe voyages, as well as protection against perils and monsters of the sea.  The serene color of the aquamarine is said to cool the temper, allowing the wearer to remain calm and levelheaded.