How Earthquakes Create Gold From Water

From time to time Mother Earth will rock your world like a gargantuan cradle, rattling nerves and wreaking havoc along the way. Since civilization's infancy, if not earlier, people have tried to explain what on earth is happening when the planet spasms. According to the British Geological Survey, Greek myths attributed earthquakes to the mighty Poseidon, also known as the Earthshaker. Ancient Greek philosophers offered the explanation that underground gas caused violent shaking while trying to escape, making an earthquake sound more like potentially fatal flatulence than a geological phenomenon.

Some of history's greatest thinkers, Isaac Newton among them, thought a flammable substance caused subterranean explosions which resulted in earthquakes. Per the US Geological Survey, today's scientists blame fault lines and friction between tectonic plates. But what if all this time Mother Earth has just been giving herself more bling?

Gold-plated tectonics

As Live Science describes, "Earthquakes have the Midas touch," at least according to a 2013 study published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Lead author Dion Weatherley, a geophysicist at Australia's University of Queensland, explained that a quantitative model captured how earthquakes create gold and quartz deposits underground. As it turns out, water often fills the faults separating chunks of quake-prone ground. Located roughly six miles (10 kilometers) underground, this water is highly pressurized, extremely heated, and contains loads of gold, carbon dioxide, and silica, the last of which forms quartz.

When the earth's belly shakes like a bowl of irritable bowel syndrome, the fault widens and the compressed water vaporizes, releasing the gold and other substances onto nearby surfaces. Weatherly's study further asserts that "up to 80 per cent of the world's gold deposits" might be the product of this process. But gold's not the only geological jewelry with a special connection to earthquakes.

All that jitters isn't gold; sometimes it's diamonds

A gold tectonic plate might be quite continental, but diamonds are an Earth's best friend. In fact, according to Live Science, diamonds located 400 miles below Earth's surface might account for mysterious quakes that occur deep inside the planet. Research presented in 2019 suggested that fluids flowing in these deep-down diamond layers might precipitate the quakes. In other words, Mother Earth might be making more bling.