A map for aspiring diamond hunters

Find out which parts of the world to visit if you want to walk away with diamonds on the soles of your shoes.

Some of you out there are tired of your office jobs. Some want a diamond on their finger without having to contribute to political strife. Others just refuse to give a single penny to the creators of those godawful, cloying jewelry commercials. Whatever the reason, digging for diamonds just got a bit easier. This new map was made by a team of researchers led by Trond Torsvik at the University of Oslo. Torsvik's team based the map on scientific knowledge of how diamonds are made and how they move, which shows the spots most likely to shine.

Diamonds are made of the same stuff as pencil lead -– carbon. The difference between what's marking up the Sudoku puzzle in the daily paper and what's flashing on an engagement ring is the structure of the carbon. It's energy and pressure that cause a diamond's structure to form. In fact, by applying pressure of about 700,000 pounds per square inch and heat (in the form of electricity) to pencil lead, companies can manufacture diamonds. The earth does the same thing. This process happens at a larger scale, but is a lot less sure. Carbon has to be buried about a hundred miles into the earth's mantle, and being exposed to 1100-1400 degree temperatures to make natural diamonds.

The earth being what it is (big) there should be diamonds everywhere. One of the reasons diamonds aren't available at the dollar store is the fact that even when they are formed, they're a hundred miles down into the earth. They have to in reach to be any use.

A hundred miles of excavation into thousand-degree temperatures is not a viable option, so generally humans have to wait until diamonds come to them. They're pushed up, along with everything around them, by ‘magma plumes,' which start at 1800 miles below the surface. Magma bubbles up from the boundary between the earth's core and its mantle, lifting everything above it. Because plumes stay in place for millions of years, what's above them tends to change over time. As the tectonic plates move over a plume, it pushes a part of them up, like a needle pushes through fabric as it moves through a sewing machine. This new map of diamond-rich sites takes into account the steady position of magma plumes, while figuring the movement of tectonic plates for the last million years.

The diamonds are still quite a ways down (and likely to be on someone else's land) but if there is a site in your backyard, congratulations!

Via Physics World, Buzzle, Monster Guide, and Life's Little Mysteries.