Three diamonds, formed billions of years ago and unearthed from an ancient rock formation sometime between 1890 and 1930, have revealed some of the planet’s closely held secrets regarding what the Earth was like billions of years ago.
The goal of the research was to determine when modern plate tectonics began occurring on the planet, a question that doesn’t naturally lead most people to look around for diamonds. However, the green Witwatersrand (Wits) diamonds (named after the region where they were discovered) are ancient – the sedimentary rock they were extracted from is approximately 3 billion years old and the diamonds themselves are even older.
Because diamonds are one of the hardest materials on Earth, they can act as perfect time capsules. The chemical composition of a diamond can indicate what was happening during the very early days of Earth’s history, at least as far back as the diamond’s formation.