, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 107-118

Coesite and pure pyrope in high-grade blueschists of the Western Alps: a first record and some consequences

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Abstract

A pyrope-quartzite originally described by Vialon (1966) from the Dora Maira massif was resampled and reinvestigated. Garnet (up to 25 cm in size), phengite, kyanite, talc and rutile are in textural equilibrium in an undeformed matrix of polygonal quartz. The garnet is a pyrope-almandine solid solution with 90 to 98 mol % Mg end-member. It contains inclusions of coesite which has partially inverted to quartz, resulting in a typical radial cracking of the host garnet around the inclusions. Several lines of evidence show that coesite crystallised under nearly static pressure conditions and that the whole matrix has once been coesite.

The formidable pressures of formation implied (≧28 kbar) are independently indicated by i) the coexistence of nearly pure pyrope with free silica and talc, ii) the coexistence of jadeite with kyanite, iii) the high Si content of phengite. Water activity must have been low. The stability of talc-phengite and the presence of rare glaucophane inclusions in pyrope point to low formation temperatures (about 700 °C) and to a probable Alpine age for the assemblage.

This is evidence that low temperature gradients, how essentially transient they are, may nevertheless persist to considerable depths. Moreover, the upper crustal (evaporite-related?) origin of the quartzite and its interbedding within a continental unit implies that continental crust may also be subducted to depths of 90 km or more. The return back to the surface is problematic; the retrograde assemblages observed show that it must be tectonic. If the rocks remain at depth, new perspectives open for the genesis of intermediate to acidic magmas. Eventually, the role of continental crust in geodynamics may have to be reconsidered.

This paper is dedicated to Pierre Vialon who first discovered these fascinating rocks