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Digging for Diamonds in the USA

Crater of Diamonds State Park Sign
Crater of Diamonds State Park Sign

In the southern US state of Arkansas is a public park that used to be a diamond mine. It is known as the Arkansas Crater of Diamond State Park. Quite fittingly, the largest city and capital of Arkansas is called Little Rock. The official state rock of Arkansas is bauxite, which is the world's main source of aluminum ore. The bauxite of Arkansas is said to be the best quality in the USA. The Arkansas state mineral is quartz and the state gemstone is diamond. The Arkansas flag shows a diamond on a red background, which represents diamond mining. The only other commercial diamond mine in the USA was the Kelsey Lake Diamond Mine in Colorado, which only operated for a short time.

Arkansas is an interesting place for mineral enthusiasts, not only for diamonds, but for many other minerals, most of which are found in the south-west of the state. One area in particular, called Magnet Cove is a magnet for "rockhounds" and is said to have produced over 100 different mineral types, some of them rare, including kolbeckite and taeniolite. Some better-known materials found in the same area include smoky quartz and melanite. Near Hot Springs is an area known as Crystal Mountain, which has produced quartz.

Rough White, Yellow and Brown Diamonds
Rough White, Yellow and Brown Diamonds

The jewel in the crown of Arkansas is the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Diamonds are thought to occur here due to a deep volcanic eruption millions of years ago, which forced material from the Earth's mantle to the surface. Diamonds can be found in the soil, from the eroded surface of the volcanic pipe. The volcanic pipe has worn down over time, but due to their hardness and durability, the diamonds have resisted weathering. Diamonds found in the park are white, brown and yellow.

The first discovery of diamonds here was made by a farmer called John Huddleston in Pike County in 1906. He found unusual crystals in the soil and took them to be appraised. News of the diamond discovery spread and led to thousands of hopeful diamond prospectors descending on the area. John Huddleston sold his farm for just $36,000 after his fortunate discovery, but sadly, his luck ran out later and he died a poor man.

The area of John Huddleston's discovery was a commercial diamond mine for some years until it was turned into a public park in 1972. This is probably the only place in the world where people may pay a small entry fee and then find diamonds to take home. The park policy is "finders, keepers", and many members of the public have found beautiful gemstones to take home for just $8, or less for children. Thousands of the diamonds from this location have been found by lucky people and approximately two stones are found per day by visitors. A 4.25-carat diamond known as the "Kahn Canary" diamond was found at the park in 1977 by George Stepp and bought by Stan Kahn. It was worn by Hilary Clinton on several official occasions. A more recent yellow diamond find was made by Marvin Culver in 2006. The 4.21-carat canary diamond is known as the "Okie Dokie Diamond".

Uncle Sam Diamond
Uncle Sam Diamond

The largest recorded find in Arkansas was the 40.23-carat "Uncle Sam Diamond", a pale brown stone which was unearthed in 1924 before the area was a public park. The largest diamond found at the Crater of Diamonds State Park was the 16.37-carat "Amarillo Starlight Diamond", which was found in 1975. The best in clarity was the "Strawn-Wagner Diamond", which was faceted into a brilliant-cut, 1.09-carat gem and given the grade of "flawless 0/0/0" by the American Gem Society. The gemstone was found in 1990 by Shirley Strawn. More recently, in 2013, 12-year-old Michael Dettlaff from North Carolina found a 5.12-carat brown diamond after searching for a mere 10 minutes at the State Park. The most recent significant find was an 8.52-carat rough white stone, named the Esperanza Diamond by Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont Colorado, who found the gemstone. The Esperanza is the fourth largest diamond ever found at the park.

If you are keen to try your luck and comb the field for gems, then you may consider going after a heavy rain shower. This is because the gems are easier to see after the rain. Also, the park ploughs the land now and again, which may help to reveal gems hidden below the surface. If you are not fond of diamonds and prefer something a little different, you may also come across other colored gemstones such as amethyst, garnet, jasper and quartz at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.

  • First Published: July-14-2015
  • Last Updated: February-07-2022
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