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North American Diamond Mines: Arkansas Crater of Diamonds

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The Arkansas Diamond Mine

Article Copyright © 2009 AllAboutGemstones.com

Other than Canada, diamond mining in North America, and particularly in the United States has met with limited success. However, there has been one minor exception: the "Arkansas Diamond Mine" in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

The Arkansas Diamond Mine was situated over a 95-million-year-old eroded lamproite volcanic pipe which was created by magma rising to the surface, caused by the shifting of the continental plates. The material within the pipe consists of ash tuffs, lamproite and epiclastic sediments that is geologically similar to the lamproites found at the Argyle Mine in Western Australia. Other minerals associated with the local geology include amethyst, banded agate, jasper, peridot, garnet, quartz, calcite, barite and hematite.

Arkansas Diamond Mine

Arkansas Diamond Mine (Photo: COD State Park)

   Strawn-Wagner Diamond

Peridotite (Photo: Public Domain)

As early as 1889, a State Geologist named John Branner began to suspect that the peridotite nodules found in the area could be diamondiferous. Branner noted that the soil in the area bore a resemblance to the kimberlite material that was associated with the recent diamond-finds in South Africa.

Branner's hunch was confirmed when in 1906, the first Arkansas diamonds were found. The discovery was made by a farmer named John Wesley Huddleston of Pike County, Arkansas, while working his 160-acre property known as the McBrayer farm. Mr. Huddleston said of his find: "I was crawling on my hands and knees...when my eyes fell on another glittering pebble...I knew it was different from any I had ever seen before."

The two stones (2 5/8 and 1 3/8 carats) were immediately sent to a Little Rock jeweler named Charles S. Stifft, who soon confirmed that they were genuine blue-white diamonds of a "fine grade." Soon after, Huddleston sold his land for $36,000, and became nationally famous as "Diamond John" the "Diamond King."

A diamond-rush turned Murfreesboro into an instant boomtown, but the excitement was short-lived, and after several unsuccessful attempts at commercial exploitation, the mine was shut down. In the years that followed, the area was used as a privately owned tourist attraction called the "Arkansas Diamond Mine."

Crater of Diamonds State Park

The state of Arkansas purchased the Murfreesboro property in 1972, converting it into an 888 acre state park. The so-called "Crater of Diamonds" is the only diamond mine in the world that is open to the general public, although it is far from a functioning diamond mine. Unsuccessful diamond-drilling (below, right) was conducted in 1992 by several groups, including mining giant Rio Tinto, but it was to no avail.

Mining at Crater of Diamonds

Mining at the park (Photo: COD State Park)

   Strawn-Wagner Diamond

Strawn-Wagner Diamond (Photo: COD State Park)

Recent Finds

Visitors to the Crater of Diamonds park are permitted and encouraged to "keep what you find," and there has been some luck on the part of unsuspecting tourists. Notably, a 3.03 carat rough diamond was found by park visitor Shirley Strawn at the park in 1990. Known as the "Strawn-Wagner Diamond," the stone was cut into a 1.09 carat diamond (above) by Lazare Kaplan International of New York in 1997.

The most recent find at the park was by nine-year-old girl named Courtney Conder, who found a 1.11 carat colorless diamond in June of 2006. The park's motto is "finders keepers," and anything you unearth is yours to keep, regardless of their value. The mine is open year-round, from 8:00 a.m. to sunset.

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Bibliography on US Diamonds and the Crater of Diamonds

1. State Park, Crater of Diamonds . www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com

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