A body-centered tetragonal carbon (bct-carbon) allotrope has been predicted to be a transparent carbon polymorph obtained under pressure. The structural transition pathways from graphite to diamond, M-carbon, and bct-carbon are simulated and the lowest activation barrier is found for the graphite-bct transition. Furthermore, bct-carbon has a higher shear strength than diamond due to its perpendicular graphenelike structure. Our results provide a possible explanation for the formation of a transparent carbon allotrope via the cold compression of graphite. We also verify that this allotrope is hard enough to crack diamond.