Imagine a place where diamonds literally can be picked off the ground. Well there is such a place, it is not where most would imagine – not Africa, Australia, the frozen northern reaches of Canada, nor Siberia. It is in the U.S. State of Arkansas near the town of Murfreesboro, about a two-hour drive southwest of Little Rock, the state capital.
Located in the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Pike County, Arkansas, is a 37.5-acre plowed piece of ground that us is billed as the world’s only diamond field that is accessible to the public.
Just several days ago, a 71-year-old retiree from Aurora, Colorado, was visiting the park with her family, and after just 10 minutes of looking came upon a white diamond weighing 2.63 carats. It was the largest find at the park thus far in 2018.
The lucky visitor said that was not sure if she had picked up a piece of glass, but discovered the true nature of her find when she later brought it to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center. She named her diamond Lichtenfels, after the town she was born in Germany, which means “a rock between two lights.” According to park rules, it is hers to keep.
Thus far in 2018, 256 diamonds have been registered as discovered at Crater of Diamonds State Park, weighing a total of 49.64 carats. Others, presumably, may have exited the park unregistered, in visitors’ pockets.
Since it became an Arkansas state park in 1972, more 33,100 diamonds have been discovered at the site by visitors. Among the larger ones were the 40.23-carat Uncle Sam, which holds the record as the largest diamond ever unearthed in the United States, the 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight, the 15.33-carat Star of Arkansas, and the 8.52-carat Esperanza.
Visitors to the Crater of Diamonds State Park searching the plowed field, in the hope of discovering their own rough diamond.
A selection of fancy colored and white diamonds that have been discovered over the years at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is located above the eroded remains of a 95-million-year-old volcano. The diamonds at the site were brought to the surface in lamproite magma, which differs from the kimberlite magma that is typical of most mine sites, although it is characteristic of diamond mines in Australia.
Mining at the site started in 1906, after a local farmer named John Huddleston found two strange crystals. The following month he sold mining options to a group of Little Rock investors.
But several attempts at commercial diamond mining failed. Nonetheless, there was a brief “diamond rush” in the area, and it is said that at the time hotels in Murfreesboro turned away 10,000 people in the space of a year. A tent city was erected near the mine, which was called “Kimberly” in honor of the famous Kimberley mine in South Africa.
Today the park greets thousands of visitors each year. There they view a display of rough diamonds and other locally-found gemstones, and learn about the area’s unique history and geology. They are invited to explore the area on their own, and see what they can find. Some, like the lady from Colorado, get lucky.