The Crater of Diamonds State Park

This is the story of the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Pike County, Arkansas in the US. A volcanic formation, it is the only diamond bearing site in the world that is open to the public. Diamonds have been found there frequently, and there are undoubtedly more there to be found.

A discovery

According to Millar, Huddleston discovered the Arkansas diamonds while he was spreading rock salt on his hog farm. He saw some shiny specks in the dirt that he thought might be gold. But instead of gold, he found two stones.

Huddleston declined an offer from the local bank cashier, who said he would pay Huddleston 50 cents for the stones. Eventually, the stones were sent to a gem expert in New York City and it was determined that the stones were indeed Arkansas diamonds. One was a 3-carat white diamond and the other was a 1.5-carat yellow diamond.

Word soon got out about the diamonds and “Diamond John” Huddleston became famous. Thousands of people flocked to the little town of Murfreesboro, sparking a boomtown atmosphere. In one year, over 10,000 people were turned away from the Conway Hotel in Murfreesboro. Soon after his find, Huddleston sold his farm for $36,000 and this portion of the crater was closed to the public.

Back in 1906 a pig farmer called John Huddleston was spreading rock salt on his farm in Murfreesboro, Arkansas when he came across two crystals lying on the ground. At first he thought then to be gold but then found that they were crystals. The local bank offered him 50 cents for them, but he declined the offer and sent them to a gem expert who found that they were diamonds. The largest was a 3 carat white diamond and the smaller a 1.5 carat yellow diamond. Buoyed up by his discovery, John Huddleston and his wife Sarah sold an option on the farm to a group of investors from Little Rock headed up by the banker Samuel Reyburn for $36,000.

Diamond rush

A diamond rush ensued. Murfreesboro soon became a boomtown. People arrived from everywhere and it is said that over a year 10,000 people have been turned away by local hotels. This lack of accommodation resulted in a tent city being formed round the mine and it took the name of Kimberly after a diamond mining district in South Africa. Diamonds were found only in the “black gumbo” surface layer where they had been concentrated by erosion, though between 1907 and 1932 the diamond discoveries in terms of carats of diamond per weight of black gumbo were high

After the initial boom, diamond discoveries tailed off and eventually the whole venture collapsed, however the mine was taken over by the US government during the Second World War as diamonds were considered a valuable war resource. Unfortunately the venture was hardly profitable due to the high costs of labour and after the war ended the land was returned to the previous owners.

Tourist attractions

“The Crater of Diamonds” and the “Arkansas Diamond Mine” were opened up as rival tourist attractions, though neither was particularly commercially successful. However one particularly lucky visitor in March 1956 discovered a beautiful diamond weighing 15.33 carats lying on the surface. The diamond became known as the Star of Arkansas. The tourist operations were consolidated in 1971 and under the ownership of Arkansas State it has operated subsequently as the Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Two diamonds a day

In the early days of diamond hunting the equipment used and mesh screens with 1.6 mm mesh size and these allowed many thousands of small diamonds to be returned to the surface. Many of these ended up in drainage trenches and it is these that have to this day spurred on recreational diamond hunting.

Every day visitors turn up in the hope that they will find a diamond or so, and many of them are successful; on average around two diamonds a day are discovered.

In total over 9,000 diamonds have been found, and although most are small, some are large. While the largest diamond found was in 1924, the Uncle Sam which weighed 40.23 carats, since becoming a state park the largest discovered by a visitor was in 1975; the Amarillo Starlight which weighed 16.37 carats.

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Anibal L. Mora

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