Thursday, August 23, 2007

World's oldest diamonds unearthed in Jack Hills region, Australia

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Diamonds are indeed forever, or at least nearly as old as the Earth, a new study shows.

The microscope image (above) reveals tiny diamond fragments (center) encased in a zircon crystal. Scientists say the diamonds found inside the crystal in the Jack Hills region in Western Australia are the oldest ever found, at some 4.25 billion years old.

The scientists, led by Martina Menneken of the Institute of Mineralogy, ran chemical analyses of the zircons, finding the ancient crystals (and thus the enclosed diamonds) were more than 4 billion years old. That's nearly a billion years older than the previous oldest-known terrestrial diamonds and suggests the diamonds were present in material that crystallized within 300 million years of the formation of Earth, the scientists say.

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