If you are a treasure hunter or if you just like diamonds and gemstones and enjoy the outdoors, I recommend a visit to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Murfreesboro is located in the lower southwestern part of Arkansas and the Crater of Diamonds State Park is just to the south of Murfreesboro. My husband, my youngest daughter and I were traveling in Arkansas some time ago when we noticed a sign that pointed to a turn-off and had the words, “diamond mine” on it. I quickly looked on our road map and saw a diamond mine noted there. We decided to check it out and I am glad we did.
As with most state parks, a lot of information is available on line and telephone numbers also are provided if you need to call them for any reason. Some of the websites are noted at the end of this article that have information and pictures to show you know exactly what is available and the necessary tools for mining. Some of the pictures show the mine exactly as it was when we went there.
On arrival, parking is available at the visitor center. Campsites are available for overnight camping for a fee. Inside the visitor center you will see beautiful displays of diamonds and gems that were found at the mine. Information is given on each and you will be able to see videos on diamonds and gemstones and learn the history of the mine. It is very helpful to know what you are looking for as these are in the rough, not cut, diamonds and gemstones. Many different colors of diamonds can be found here, but the most common colors are white, brown and yellow. Many other types of rocks and minerals can also be found which include lamprophyre, amethyst, banded agate, jasper, peridot, garnet, quartz, calcite, barite and hematite.
A relatively small fee is required by the day to search for diamonds. You will be able to search over a 37 acre field that is periodically plowed into big rows of soil. Different methods of mining may be used but you will not be allowed to use anything with a motor or battery or that has wheels. I highly recommend a broad brimmed hat and sunscreen for protection from the sun since it gets really hot in the afternoon. You may bring your own tools or rent them at the visitor center. People use anything from kitchen utensils to gardening tools to their bare hands for searching through the soil and rocks. Historical structures, old mining equipment, washing pavilions, and sun shelters are located on the field.
There are several methods used for searching for diamonds. Some prefer to walk up and down the rows of dirt looking for diamonds lying on top of the ground. This is the most productive method. After rain washes the soil away, diamonds and other rocks and minerals are exposed to the surface and usually the sun will reflect from some part of them. This is how I found a small diamond and a few other stones. Some people like to dig in the soil and screen for diamonds. This usually involves searching through several inches of soil and using a screen to sift it. Another method is done by washing the soil in a series of screens and hand sorting the concentrated gravels from the screens similar to panning for gold.
You may keep anything you find and the diamond mine staff will provide free identification and certification of stones. They are not trained, nor do they have the equipment, to assess the value of diamonds but they can provide a list of diamond cutters. The monetary value of a diamond rests in the possibility of the diamond being cut. Several large diamonds from the Crater have been cut into D Flawless stones, bringing good prices. Most diamonds found are generally too small to be cut but will be valued souvenirs of your trip to the Crater. Diamonds are often mounted uncut in jewelry. One popular method of displaying a rough diamond is to have it mounted in a pendant or pin.
I have read that different numbers of stones, from 20,000 to 75,000, have been found at the mine since the first discovery in 1906. I don’t know how many have truly been found but I think it is worthwhile to continue to search for them. You will probably not find a fortune at Crater of Diamonds State Park but there have been some exciting finds. One stone found in 1917 weighed 17.86 carats and one weighed 20.25 carats that was found in 1921. The record-setting Uncle Sam Diamond at 40.23 carats was found in 1924.
Even the industrial grade stones usually have an attractive natural luster in the rough and have been declared by experts to be as brilliant and valuable as those produced in South Africa and South America. The largest diamond found since the Crater of Diamonds became a state park was the 16.37 carat “Amarillo Starlight” discovered in 1975. The “Star of Murfreesboro” weighed 34.25 carats, the “Star of Arkansas” was 15.33 carats, and the “Star of Shreveport” weighed 8.82 carats. The 4.25 carat “Kahn Canary” diamond was found in 1977 and was worn by Hillary Clinton during the presidential inaugural balls, as well as two gubernatorial inaugurations. The 3.03-carat “Strawn-Wagner Diamond,” found in 1990 was cut to a 1.09-carat gem graded D-flawless 0/0/0 (the highest grade a diamond can achieve) by the American Gem Society.
Geologists believe these diamonds were formed millions of years ago and shot to the earth’s surface during a volcanic eruption. The portion of the crater that is known to be diamond bearing is about 35 acres and is the eroded surface of an ancient volcanic pipe. Test drilling at the crater has shown that the reserve is shaped like a martini glass; it is believed to be the eighth largest diamond reserve in the world.
The first diamond was found in what is now Crater of Diamonds in 1906 by John Welsley Huddleston, the owner of the land, as he was spreading rock salt on his hog farm. The land has changed hands several times over the years and several unsuccessful attempts were made at commercial mining. The mine was operated privately, and as a tourist attraction from 1952 to 1972. In 1972, the State of Arkansas purchased the site for development as a state park. The site was developed into an 888 acre park. The discovery of diamonds is celebrated every June with the Diamond Festival. On a separate date, the park also celebrates John Huddleston Day, honoring the man who discovered the first diamonds in the area.