The Crater of Diamonds State Park, in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is the world’s only diamond mine open to the public. Visitors get to go on a real-life treasure hunt and keep whatever they find!
According to park officials, over 600 diamonds of various colors and grades are found by visitors each year. Over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed since the mine was discovered in 1906 – 19,000 of them since the mine became a state park in 1972.
Scientists believe that these diamonds were formed three billion years ago in the earth’s mantle, 60 to 100 miles below the earth’s surface. The precious rocks were brought up to the surface about 100 million years ago, by a rising column of magma. A huge volcanic eruption resulted in an 80-acer crater, filled with fragments of mantle rock that contained diamonds. Over the years, the rocks have eroded, leaving the diamonds and other semi-precious gems loose in the soil.
The existence of the diamonds in the crater was first discovered in 1906 by a farmer named John Huddlestone, whose farm was located bang in the middle of the mine. One day, he found two shiny specks in the dirt while spreading rock salt on his hog farm. Upon closer inspection, he realised that they could be diamonds.
A local bank cashier offered John 50 cents for the stones, but the shrewd farmer knew better. He sent them to a gem expert in New York, who confirmed that the stones were indeed Arkansas diamonds – one a three-carat white, and the other a 1.5-carat yellow. The story spread like wildfire and ‘Diamond John’ Huddlestone became famous. Thousands of people began to arrive at Murfreesboro to see the farm for themselves, but they were all turned away.
Photo: Arkansas State Parks
John wasn’t interested in mining himself, so he sold the land to investors for $36,000. The buyers made several attempts at commercial mining in the area, but everything failed. So the property was eventually re-christened ‘Crater of Diamonds’ and opened to the public in 1952, as a pay-to-prospect mine. The state purchased the mine two decades later, and it became a state park.
Today, the park is visited by hundreds of thousands of amateur miners a year, who carefully dig through the dirt hoping to make a fortune. Most of them claw through the dirt with their fingers, but a few use a special sieve called ‘seruca’ to separate heavier diamonds from the rest.
The park has yielded several great stones over the years, including the 40-carat ‘Uncle Sam’ – the largest diamond ever discovered in the United States. The 34-carat ‘Star Murfreesboro’, 15-carat ‘Star of Arkansas’ and 8-carat ‘Star of Shreveport’ were all discovered here as well.
The 16-carat ‘Amarillo Starlight’, discovered in 1975, was the largest diamond ever found by a visitor, since the place became upon to the public. A handful of visitors have even managed to find three to five carat diamonds worth thousands of dollars, but as you can guess, these are exceptions rather than the norm. Most of the diamonds recovered from the mine are about the size of a match head – too small to be cut and mounted as a stone.
Photo: Arkansas State Parks
Well, the chances of finding a diamond of any real worth might be pretty slim, but no one would really want to pass up the opportunity. So if you ever happen to be in Arkansas, you know where to go to try your luck!