by Greg Klein | June 29, 2015
A former Arkansas mine that’s now “the world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public” has yielded another big find. Within 20 minutes of her search on June 24, visitor Bobbie Oskarson scooped up a white 8.52-carat gem described as “absolutely stunning.” She took the stone with her under the attraction’s finders-keepers policy.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park features a 15-hectare search area described as “the eroded top of the eighth-largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world in surface area.”
Attendants plow the area regularly to help expose gems. Visitors search for diamonds simply by walking along the rows or by using garden tools and sifting screens. Park staff can help identify up to 40 types of rocks and minerals to be found.
Unlike Canadian deposits, Arkansas diamonds made their ascent through lamproite bodies, not kimberlite.
Mining started with a 1906 diamond rush. But despite several owners, commercial operations flopped. “All such ventures are shrouded in mystery,” the park’s website states. “Lawsuits, lack of money and fires are among the reasons suspected for these failures.”
Oskarson’s find is “absolutely stunning, sparkling with a metallic shine and appears to be an unbroken, capsule-shaped crystal,” said park interpreter Waymon Cox. “It features smooth, curved facets, a characteristic shared by all unbroken diamonds from the Crater of Diamonds.” The stone measures about three-quarters of an inch long “and as big around as a standard No. 2 pencil.” It’s the fifth-largest diamond found by a visitor since the park opened in 1972.
The biggest was a white 16.37-carat stone found in 1975. The site’s biggest-ever, and the largest diamond found in the U.S., was the Uncle Sam, a 40.23-carat white stone with a pink cast unearthed in 1924.
Some of the 75,000 diamonds found over the site’s history remain on display at the park. The attraction also features relics including the mine shaft building, plant foundations, old mining equipment and other artefacts.