The Lu-Hf and Re-Os isotope systems have been applied sparsely to elucidate the origin of granites, intracrustal processes and the evolution of the continental crust. The presence or absence of garnet as a residual phase during partial melting will strongly influence Lu/Hf partitioning, making the Lu–Hf isotope system exceptionally sensitive to evaluating the role of garnet during intracrustal differentiation processes. Mid-Proterozoic (1·1–1·5Ga ) ‘anorogenic’ granites from the western U.S.A. appear to have anomalously high εHf values, relative to their εNd values, compared with Precambrian orogenic granites from several continents. The Hf-Nd isotope variations for Precambrian orogenic granites are well explained by melting processes that are ultimately tied to garnet-bearing sources in the mantle or crust. Residual, garnet-bearing lower and middle crust will evolve to anomalously high εHf values over time and may be the most likely source for later ‘anorogenic’ magmas. When crustal and mantle rocks are viewed together in terms of Hf and Nd isotope compositions, a remarkable mass balance is apparent for at least the outer silicate earth where Precambrian orogenic continental crust is the balance to the high-εHf depleted mantle, and enriched lithospheric mantle is the balance to the low-εHf depleted mantle.
Although the continental crust has been envisioned to have exceptionally high Re/Os ratios and very radiogenic Os isotope compositions, new data obtained on magnetite mineral separates suggest that some parts of the Precambrian continental crust are relatively Os-rich and non-radiogenic. It remains unclear how continental crust may obtain non-radiogenic Os isotope ratios, and these results have important implications for Re-Os isotope evolution models. In contrast, Phanerozoic batholiths and volcanic arcs that are built on young mafic lower crust may have exceptionally radiogenic Os isotope ratios. These results highlight the unique ability of Os isotopes to identify young mafic crustal components in orogenic magmas that are essentially undetectable using other isotope systems such as O, Sr, Nd and Pb.