Recent discoveries over the last decade of new gemfields, exploitation of new and existing deposits, and application of relatively new techniques have greatly increased our knowledge of the basalt-derived gem sapphire–ruby–zircon deposits. In this paper we focus on the Late Mesozoic to Cenozoic intraplate basaltic fields of the West Pacific continental margins. We review advances made in understanding the genesis of these deposits, based on the application of newer techniques. We also critically review existing data on the gem corundum deposits, in order to further refine a model for their origin.
In some of the intraplate basaltic fields, corundum-bearing xenoliths have been found showing a range of PT formation conditions from 790 °C at 0.85 GPa to as much as 1100 to 1200 °C at 1.0 to 2.5 GPa. Although most magmatic sapphires contain syngenetic inclusions of columbite-group phases, zircon, spinel and rutile, some contain additional nepheline and K-feldspar, suggesting crystallization from more undersaturated alkaline magma while the Weldborough field of NE Tasmania also contains molybdenite and beryl, suggesting at least some interaction with more fractionated ‘granitic-type’ magmas. There is a large range in PT conditions calculated for the metamorphic rubies (from 780 to 940 °C, through 800 to 1150 °C up to 1000 to 1300 °C). Fluid/melt inclusion studies on magmatic corundums generally suggest that they formed in a CO2-rich environment from a ‘syenitic’ melt under a range of T conditions from 720 to 880 °C up to 1000 to 1200 °C. Oxygen isotope studies reveal that typical magmatic corundums have values of + 4.4 to 6.9‰, whereas metamorphic corundums from the same basaltic host have lower values of + 1.3 to 4.2‰.
Geochronological studies have shown that some fields produced a simple eruptive and zircon/corundum crystallization event while others had multiple eruptive events but only one or two zircon crystallization events. For a few fields, some corundums/zircons crystallized in storage regions and then remained relatively inert for periods of 200 to 400 Ma without significant change before transport to the surface in the Cenozoic. Tectonic studies of the Australian region suggest that many of the corundums crystallized from magmas related to episodic basaltic volcanism in a tectonic regime of extension, associated with the opening of the Tasman and Coral Seas. For the Asian region, the magmatic–polygenetic corundums within the basaltic fields largely crystallized in a tectonic regime of distributed E–W extension, whereas the metamorphic-metasomatic corundums crystallised in a transpressional regime associated with the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate (e.g., [Garnier, V., Giuliani, G., Maluski, H., Ohnenstetter, D., Deloule, E., 2003. Ar–Ar and U–Pb ages of marble-hosted ruby deposits from Central and South-east Asia. Geophysical Research Abstracts 5, 03751; Garnier, V., Giuliani, G., Ohnenstetter, D., and Schwarz, D., 2004. Les gisements de corindon: classification et genese. Les placers a corindon gemme. Le Regne Mineral 55, 7-47; Garnier, V., Ohnenstetter, D., Giuliani, G., Maluski, H., Deloule, E., Phan Trong, T., Pham Van, L., Hoang Quang, V., 2005a. Age and significance of ruby-bearing marble from the Red River Shear Zone, Northern Vietnam. Canadian Mineralogist 43, 1315–1329]).