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Prof. Steve Richardson


Isotope geochemistry and geochronology

​Room 401
Department of Geological Sciences​
Ph:  +27 (0)21 650 2916
Fax:  +27 (0)21 650 3783

Current CV (pdf)



Diamonds are unique in that they isolate inclusions of other minerals from diffusive exchange, even at mantle temperatures on a billion year time scale. This makes them near-perfect time capsules from the early history of continents. My research is focused on determining the isotope systematics of different generations of diamonds as a way to trace the evolution of subcontinental mantle that avoids the secondary effects seen in xenoliths. These studies have led to recent insights into a global change in tectonic regime and the start of the Wilson cycle of plate tectonics between 3.2 and 3.0 billion years ago.


Latest Publications

Smith EM, Shirey SB, Richardson SH, Nestola F, Bullock ES, Wang J, Wang W (2019) Reply to: Evidence for two blue (type IIb) diamond populations. Nature 570, E28–E29.

Smith EM, Shirey SB, Richardson SH, Nestola F, Bullock ES, Wang J, Wang W (2018) Blue boron-bearing diamonds from Earth’s lower mantle. Nature 560, 84-87.

Smith EM, Shirey SB, Nestola F, Bullock ES, Wang J, Richardson SH, Wang W (2016) Large gem diamonds from metallic liquid in Earth’s deep mantle. Science 354, 1403-1405.

Viljoen KS, Harris JW, Ivanic T, Richardson SH, Gray K (2014) Trace element chemistry of peridotitic garnets in diamonds from the Premier (Cullinan) and Finsch kimberlites, South Africa: contrasting styles of mantle metasomatism. Lithos 208-209, 1-15.​

Harte B, Richardson SH (2012) Mineral inclusions in diamonds track the evolution of a Mesozoic subducted slab beneath west Gondwanaland. Gondwana Research 21, 236-245.

Shirey SB, Richardson SH (2011) Start of the Wilson cycle at 3 Ga shown by diamonds from subcontinental mantle. Science 333, 434-436.

Gurney JJ, Helmstaedt HH, Richardson SH, Shirey SB (2010) Diamonds through time. Economic Geology 105, 689-712.

Helmstaedt HH, Gurney JJ, Richardson SH (2010) Cratonic diamond ages and lithosphere evolution – constraints on Precambrian tectonics and diamond exploration. Canadian Mineralogist 48, 1385-1408.

Smit KV, Shirey SB, Richardson SH, le Roex AP, Gurney JJ (2010) Re-Os isotopic composition of peridotiticsulphide inclusions in diamonds from Ellendale, Australia: Age constraints on Kimberley cratonic lithosphere. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 74, 3292-3306.

Richardson SH, Pöml PF, Shirey SB, Harris JW (2009) Age and origin of peridotitic diamonds from Venetia, Limpopo Belt, Kaapvaal-Zimbabwe Craton. Lithos 112, 785-792.

Richardson SH, Shirey SB (2008) Continental mantle signature of Bushveld magmas and coeval diamonds. Nature 453, 910-913.



  • PhD Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1984
  • BSc (Hons) University of Cape Town, 1977


  • Professor, University of Cape Town, since 2013
  • Associate Professor, University of Cape Town, 2002-2012
  • Senior Lecturer, University of Cape Town, 1994-2001
  • Senior Research Officer, University of Cape Town, 1987-1993
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 1984-1986

 Research Appointments

  • Visiting Investigator, DTM, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1999-date
  • Guest Investigator, Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1999
  • Visiting Scientist, Dept of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences, MIT, 1987, 1985