|Crystal system||Isometric-hexoctahedral (cubic)|
|Color||Typically black, can be grey, various shades of green and brown sometimes mottled.|
|Fracture||Irregular torn surfaces|
|Mohs scale hardness||10|
Carbonado, commonly known as black diamond, is one of the toughest forms of natural diamond. It is an impure, high-density, micro-porous form of polycrystalline diamond consisting of diamond, graphite, and amorphous carbon, with minor crystalline precipitates filling pores and occasional reduced metal inclusions. It is found primarily in alluvial deposits where it is most prominent in mid-elevation equatorial regions such as Central African Republic and in Brazil, where the vast majority of carbonado diamondites have been found. Its natural colour is black or dark grey, and it is more porous than other diamonds.
Carbonado diamonds are typically pea-sized or larger porous aggregates of many tiny black crystals. The most characteristic carbonados are mined in the Central African Republic and in Brazil, in neither place associated with kimberlite, the source of typical gem diamonds. Lead isotope analyses have been interpreted as documenting crystallization of carbonados about 3 billion years ago; yet carbonado is found in younger sedimentary rocks.
Mineral grains included within diamonds have been studied extensively for clues to diamond origin. Some typical diamonds contain inclusions of common mantle minerals such as pyrope and forsterite, but such mantle minerals have not been observed in carbonado. In contrast, some carbonados contain authigenic inclusions of minerals characteristic of the Earth's crust; the inclusions do not necessarily establish formation of the diamonds in the crust, but because while the obvious crystal inclusions occur in the pores that are common in carbonados, they may have been introduced after carbonado formation. Inclusions of other minerals, rare or nearly absent in the Earth's crust, are found at least partly incorporated in diamond, not just in pores: among such other minerals are those with compositions of Si, SiC, and Fe-Ni. No distinctive high-pressure minerals, including the hexagonal carbon polymorph, lonsdaleite, have been found as inclusions in carbonados although such inclusions might be expected if carbonados formed by meteorite impact.
Carbonado exhibits strong luminescence (photoluminescence and cathodoluminescence) induced by nitrogen and by vacancies existing in the crystal lattice. Luminescence halos are present around radioactive inclusions, and it is suggested that the radiation damage occurred after formation of the carbonados, an observation perhaps pertinent to the radiation hypothesis listed below.
The origin of carbonado is controversial, and some proposed hypotheses are as follows:
None of these hypotheses for carbonado formation had come into wide acceptance in the scientific literature by 2008. 13C/12C ratios in carbonado are identical to local sediments.
Supporters of an extraterrestrial origin of carbonados propose that their material source was a supernova which occurred at least 3.8 billion years ago. After coalescing and drifting through outer space for about one and a half billion years, a large mass fell to earth as a meteorite approximately 2.3 billion years ago. It possibly fragmented during entry into the Earth's atmosphere and impacted in a region which would much later split into Brazil and the Central African Republic, assumed to be the only two known locations of carbonado deposits (which is not an accurate representation of the true distribution of carbonado diamondite).