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Monday, 01 April 2013

Diamonds in the Rough

Written by  Justin Dorsey

1_CraterofDiamonds_SignPlanetHop! is always on the lookout for unique and interesting places that often times lie right under our noses. One of these is Arkansas' (USA) Crater of Diamond State Park. As the only diamond producing site in the entire world that is open to the public, the only thing standing between you and a shiny bauble of your own is a bit of blood, sweat and tears (not necessarily in that order). But perhaps the best thing of all is that the park's policy on diamonds is very simple – finders keepers; believe us when we say that more than a fair share of "keepers" have been found through the years. What more could an intrepid PlanetHopper! possibly want? Read on to find out how the park's diamond hunters faired in 2011 – one of the best years on record!

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Looking back over the past 12 months, the year 2011 has been a successful one for the park visitors who have hunted for diamonds in the 37 ½-acre search area at Arkansas's diamond site, the Crater of Diamonds State Park. According to Park Superintendent Justin Dorsey, over 500 diamonds have been found by visitors this year. Of this year's diamond finds, 30 have weighed over a carat each. The year's largest diamond find was an 8.66-carat white diamond found in April. David Anderson of Murfreesboro found the 535th diamond this year. His 3.83-carat pear-shaped, yellow diamond marks the fourth largest find for the year.


Park Interpreter Margi Jenks said, "This has been a great year for our park visitors here at the Crater of Diamonds. During every month this year, a visitor unearthed a diamond weighing over a carat. And in April, six diamonds weighed over a carat including the year's largest diamond find, the 8.66-carat Illusion Diamond discovered by Beth Gilbertson of Salida, Colorado." She continued, "That white diamond ranks as third largest diamond found by a park visitor since the Crater of Diamonds was established as an Arkansas state park in 1972."

Jenks noted that David Anderson found his diamond in the East Drain section of the park's search area. A regular diamond digger at the park, Anderson found the diamond while washing dirt from a hole he dug that was located near holes dug by other park visitors. Jenks said, "It's a pale yellow, very shiny diamond about the size of dime. That shine is characteristic of diamonds found here at the Crater of Diamonds."

According to David Anderson, "Everyone else had moved away from that spot. Everyone missed it!" He continued, "It was in the first bucket of material I washed that morning, and I caught the diamond in my top screen." Anderson noted that he's found many diamonds at the park. "This is my sixth diamond weighing over one carat, but this one is the largest of all my diamond finds." Anderson credits hard work and his "passion for treasure hunting" as the reasons for his success at the park. "You wonder what's going to be in the next bucket. I'm still looking for an even bigger diamond."

3_CraterofDiamonds_David_Anderson                         4_CraterofDiamonds_Wolverine_Diamond

    David Anderson...                                                         ...and his diamond

Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Anderson lives near the park in Murfreesboro now. He decided to name his 3.83-carat diamond the Wolverine Diamond after the Michigan Wolverines football team, his favorite team. "After finding the diamond Monday morning, I met a visitor from Michigan at the park who was also a Wolverine fan. The diamond's name just came naturally from our conversation," he said.


Arkansas' Field of Dreams

The search area at the Crater of Diamonds State Park is a 37 ½-acre plowed field, the eroded surface of the eighth largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world in surface area. It is the world's only diamond-producing site open to the public. On average, two diamonds are found each day at the park. The park's policy is finder-keepers. What park visitors find is theirs to keep. The park staff provides free identification and certification of diamonds found at the park. Park interpretive programs and exhibits explain the site's geology and history and offer tips on recognizing diamonds in the rough.

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Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The three colors found at the Crater of Diamonds are white, brown and yellow, in that order. Other semi-precious gems and minerals found in the park's search area include amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite, and quartz. Over 40 different rocks and minerals are unearthed at the Crater making it a rock hound's delight.


All the colors of the rainbow

In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at Arkansas's diamond site since the first diamonds found in 1906 by John Huddleston, the farmer who at that time owned the land, long before the site became an Arkansas state park. The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. Other large notable finds from the Crater include the Star of Murfreesboro (34.25 carats) and the Star of Arkansas (15.33 carats).

7_CraterofDiamonds_UncleSamUncut                         8_CraterofDiamonds_UncleSamCut

Uncle Sam – uncut                                                     Uncle Sam - cut

The largest diamond of the 27,000 discovered by park visitors since the Crater became an Arkansas state park in 1972 was the 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight. W. W. Johnson of Amarillo, Texas, found this spectacular gem-quality, white diamond in 1975.

In June 1981, the 8.82-carat Star of Shreveport was added to the growing list of large valuable stones found at the Crater.

Another notable diamond from the Crater of Diamonds that has received much national attention is the 1.09-carat D-flawless Strawn-Wagner Diamond. Discovered in 1990 by Shirley Strawn of nearby Murfreesboro, this white gem weighed 3.03 carats in the rough before being cut to perfection in 1997 by the renowned diamond firm Lazare Kaplan International of New York. The gem is the most perfect diamond ever certified in the laboratory of the American Gem Society. The diamond will once again be on display in a special exhibit in the Crater of Diamonds State Park visitor center when the building's current remodeling project is completed.


"X" - marks the spot!

Another gem from the Crater is the flawless 4.25-carat Kahn Canary diamond that was discovered at the park in 1977. This uncut, triangular-shaped gem has been on exhibit at many cities around the U.S. and overseas. It was featured in an illustrious jewelry exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium in 1997 that included precious stones from throughout the world, including the Kremlin collection, the Vatican, Cartier and Christies. And, in late 1997, the Kahn Canary was featured in another prestigious exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York entitled "The Nature of Diamonds." Former First Lady Hillary Clinton borrowed the Kahn Canary from its owner, Stan Kahn of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and wore it in a special, Arkansas-inspired ring setting designed by Henry Dunay of New York. Mrs. Clinton chose to wear the gem as a special way to represent Arkansas's diamond site at the galas celebrating both of Bill Clinton's presidential inaugurals.


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Come on, it's finders-keepers! Just imagine what it would feel like to pull your very own 2-4-6-8 carat diamond from the ground. One good diamond could be enough to fund a round-the-world tour - a dream for many PlanetHoppers! So what are you waiting for? Get over to Murfreesboro, Arkansas and start digging. Make sure to leave us some comments when you find that precious gem!

This article and associated photos was first published on the Crater of Diamonds State Park website, with permission to reprint obtained from Justin Dorsey – Park Superintendent. Thanks, Justin!

Who (will enjoy)

Perfect for the entire family. Just keep in mind that kids might find searching through acres and acres of dirt a bit boring after a few hours (if not shorter).

What (to do)

The Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond field in the entire world that's open to the public. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the search and, if you do find anything, consider it a bonus.

When (should I visit)

Any time of the year is OK for diamond hunting, but just be aware that winter in Arkansas can be really cold, and in summer it can get in excess of 100°F (40°C), so make sure you bring plenty of water and sunblock!Istanbul has a mild, Mediterranean climate that makes it the perfect year-round location, although the summer months (June-August) can get a bit hot and humid.

Where (to stay)

The park is located approximately 120 miles (190km) by highway from the Arkansas capital of Little Rock. There are an abundance of local accommodation in close vicinity to the park that won't set you back a fortune, and are more than adequate - so long as you're not expecting anything fancy!

How (much will it cost)

Entrance Fees (as of March 2012):

Adults: $7/day

Children: $4/day

Crater of Diamonds Story