Unusual ruby–sapphire transition in alluvial megacrysts, Cenozoic basaltic gem field, New England, New South Wales, Australia

Frederick L. Sutherland, Ian T. Graham, Stephen J. Harris, Terry Coldham, William Powell, Elena A. Belousova, Laure Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Rare ruby crystals appear among prevailing sapphire crystals mined from placers within basaltic areas in the New England gem-field, New South Wales, Australia. New England ruby (NER) has distinctive trace element features compared to those from ruby elsewhere in Australia and indeed most ruby from across the world. The NER suite includes ruby (up to 3370 ppm Cr), pink sapphire (up to 1520 ppm Cr), white sapphire (up to 910 ppm) and violet, mauve, purple, or bluish sapphire (up to 1410 ppm Cr). Some crystals show outward growth banding in this respective colour sequence. All four colour zones are notably high in Ga (up to 310 ppm) and Si (up to 1820 ppm). High Ga and Ga/Mg values are unusual in ruby and its trace element plots (laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma—mass spectrometry) and suggests that magmatic–metasomatic inputs were involved in the NER suite genesis. In situ oxygen isotope analyses (secondary ion mass spectrometry) across the NER suite colour range showed little variation (n = 22; δ18O = 4.4 ± 0.4, 2σ error), and are values typical for corundum associated with ultramafic/mafic rocks. The isolated NER xenocryst suite, corroded by basalt transport and with few internal inclusions, presents a challenge in deciphering its exact origin. Detailed consideration of its high Ga chemistry in relation to the known geology of the surrounding region was used to narrow down potential sources. These include Late Palaeozoic–Triassic fractionated I-type granitoid magmas or Mesozoic–Cenozoic felsic fractionates from basaltic magmas that interacted with early Palaeozoic Cr-bearing ophiolite bodies in the New England Orogen. Other potential sources may lie deeper within lower crust–mantle metamorphic assemblages, but need to match the anomalous high-Ga geochemistry of the New England ruby suite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-360
Number of pages14
JournalLithos
Volume278-281
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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