Oldest Gem in the Planet Found in a Sheep Ranch in West Australia

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By Christine Lazaro | February 24, 2014 3:55 PM EST

A zircon fragment discovered in the western part of Australia is found out to be the oldest gem found on Earth. According to researchers, its discovery can also be the tool in knowing how old the Earth really is.

The oldest gem, which is eventually discovered as a small zircon crystal, was seen on a sheep ranch in West Australia, SMH reports. Researchers who wrote about the discovery at the Nature GeoScience think that the piece is about 4.4 billion years old.

Its discovery and its age lead to a theory that the planet Earth may have been able to sustain microbial life for about 4.3 billion years ago. "We have no evidence that life existed then. We have no evidence that it didn't. But there is no reason why life could not have existed on Earth 4.3 billion years ago," Professor John Valley stated, who is also the lead scientist of the study.

What are Zircons?

According to Professor Valley, zircons appear huge and pretty. However, the ones that they focus their study on are tiny and not so pleasant to the eyes, except of course for the geology experts. Despite its high value of importance, it appears small and was extracted from a rock outcrop within the region of Jack Hills in the land of Down Under. Its measure is 200 x 400 microns which can be compared to about double the diameter of human hair.

How the Oldest Gem's Age Was Determined

All of the scientists involved in the determination of its stage utilized a common dating technique that was based on how the uranium decays to lead within a sample of a mineral. However, with some scientists doubting the technique the scientists used, the assigned researchers proceeded to another method of verification.

They settled instead for the technique called as the atom-probe tomography. It was used to identify atoms of lead within the oldest gem discovered and know its mass content. By then, it was confirmed that its age is definitely 4.4 billion years.

Who would ever think the oldest gem in the planet will be found in a simple Australian ranch full of sheep?

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