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in the rough

Peat, Coal, and Diamonds: About that future sparkle in the moss

While the journey from peat to diamond takes immense amounts of time, pressure, and heat over millions of years, humans have developed ways to speed up and mimic the natural Diamond forming process. Laboratories can now produce small synthesizes diamonds for industrial uses like cutting, polishing, and grinding. The process involves heating graphite to extremely high temperatures, over 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, while simultaneously applying intense pressures equivalent to around 65,000 times atmospheric pressure. The heat and pressure breaks the chemical bonds between the carbon atoms and re-forms new bonds creating the unique crystal structure of diamonds.

In nature, the majority of diamonds are carried to the surface by deep-rooted kimberlite pipes, which transport diamonds and other crystals from over 150 miles below the Earth's crust. These kimberlite pipes form when partial melts break through the lithosphere into the upper mantle. The melts originate from great depths of the Earth's mantle and contain dissolved gases that allow the eruption to break through many kilometers of overlying rock. Upon reaching the surface, the kimberlite pipes cool and solidify, trapping fragments of mantle rock and any embedded gemstones they encountered along the way.

Kimberlite pipes vary in shape but are typically carrot-like in cross section, widening with depth. Their diameters can range from a few meters to over 1 kilometer wide. Despite making up a tiny fraction of erupted volumes, kimberlite pipes are incredibly important as they provide the primary source of mined diamonds worldwide. Through analyzing the mineral and chemical compositions of kimberlites, scientists gain greater insights into the deep geology and chemistry within our planet's mantle.

Here within the Metaverse at Quicktip, we hope to one day be able to simulate in high detail what a kimberlite pipe might look like from the inside. Guests could virtually descend through various rock layers and observe diamond-bearing fragments embedded within the cooled igneous matrix. Close visual analysis of trace minerals may help unravel clues about conditions far below the surface. Advancing technologies may even allow participants to safely “collect” diamonds and other gemstones as part of an immersive educational experience. Our goal is to bring to life the extraordinary subsurface processes that create our planet's natural wonders.

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