Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Okie Dokie Diamond [Original Post Date 3/13/06]

Many people may not be aware of it, but Murfreesboro, Arkansas is the only place in the entire world where common people can pay a small fee and search for diamonds and keep everything that they find. All other diamond producing areas are owned/controlled by large corporations or governments.

From MSNBC News, an Oklahoma State Trooper, visiting the Crater of Diamonds State Park with his family for the first time, found a 4.21 carat, canary yellow diamond that is said to be flawless. Talk about beginner's luck!

The park is approximately 37 acres of ground that is periodically plowed. Visitors are allowed to crawl about on their hands and knees, that is how I found my small white diamond (.37 carats) on my first visit in 1973. There are other areas where people can dig and sieve sand and gravel in water to look for diamonds.

When I was there in the spring of 1978, a couple from Dallas was looking in the same area as I was looking. I left in the mid-afternoon to do some other things in the area. At dusk, I was parked along the road into town, looking for old beer cans in the woods when the Dallas couple recognized my truck and pulled over. They asked me to take a look at what they found and to tell them if it was a diamond. It was a 4 carat, brown diamond, not of gem quality, but with the classic octahedral diamond shape. I got to hold it and I was the first one to confirm that it was a diamond (the park office had closed for the day). I later saw a short newspaper article in a Dallas paper, wherein that diamond was valued at $4,000 because of its size, classic crystal shape, and it being an American diamond. And that was 1978.

The article mentioned that 84 diamonds have been found so far this year. When I was first there in 1973, they said about 250 diamonds per year were found by visitors. Most of them are not gem quality, but once in a while, someone finds a "blockbuster" of a diamond, worthy of faceting and mounting in jewelry. The three main colors at the Crater of Diamonds State Park are white (60%), brown (21%), and yellow (17%) - according to the linked site below. 383 diamonds were found in 2004 and 536 in 2005. The higher numbers than the 1970s may be partially a function of higher numbers of visitors and perhaps more serious methods of searching, perhaps more digging and less crawling.

As mentioned above, it is an Arkansas State Park, open to the public. The state of Arkansas has toyed with the idea of selling the property to mining company, but public pressure has so far preserved the status quo. I know that Libertarian/Conservative purists disapprove of government ownership of land, but this place is so unique, I think it should stay as a state park.

The first diamonds were found 100 years ago, when the area was a farm. The farmer, when dressing out chickens to eat, found shiny stones in their craws (not having teeth, some birds swallow small stones to aid in the digestion process and the shiny nature of the diamonds caught the eye of the chickens). The stones were identified as diamonds, but there were never enough to support a mining operation, so it became a tourist attraction. In 1972, it became a state park.

If you click on the Park link above, the middle-aged black man in the center "works" at the park. Every day the park is open, he is there to pay his fee and that is what he does all day, dig for diamonds. He was there the last time I visited the park in 1983 or 1984 and I talked to him briefly. He doesn't find a diamond every day, but he finds enough to scratch out a living. Some of his diamonds may be among the Arkansas diamonds for sale on this website.

If you ever go there, don't expect to find a diamond, but there is always a chance. There are other minerals of interest to kids, quartz crystals, amethyst, calcite, peridot, agate, conglomerate (a type of sandstone composed of rounded river pebbles) and other minerals. Just keep everything that might even look like a diamond, and the rangers at the park are more than glad to look over what you have found and tell you "what's what".

Only in America!

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