Gems & Minerals — Crater of Diamonds State Park
Visitors able to search for diamonds, semi-precious gems
By Ray Lundin – Gemologist
The Crater of Diamonds is an Arkansas State Park located in Murfreesboro, Ark., and is the only diamond mine in the world that is open to the public. The Crater of Diamonds State Park is on 888 acres situated over an eroded volcanic pipe. The park is open to the public and, for a small fee, rockhounds and tourists can dig for diamonds and other gemstones. Visitors may keep any gemstone they find regardless of its value. In addition to diamonds, visitors may find semi-precious gems such as amethyst, agate, quartz and calcite. The crater itself is a 35-acre open field that is periodically plowed to bring the diamonds and other gemstones to the surface. The park is open year round but experienced diamond hunters prefer hunting in the spring when rains wash dirt off of the gemstones and make them easier to spot.
John Wesley Huddleston found the first diamonds in 1906. These stones were sent to a Little Rock jeweler and confirmed to be genuine diamonds. The jeweler described them as blue-white diamonds, one weighing 2-5/8 carats and the other 1-3/4 carats. They were then sent to a New York jeweler, who after subjecting them to every test, found that the diamonds were of the finest grade.
Huddleston, a farmer, bought the 160-acre farm to make a home for his family in 1906. He told the story of how he found the diamonds to the Arkansas Gazette.
“I was crawling on my hands and knees…when my eyes fell on a glittering pebble…I knew it was different from any I had ever seen before. It had a fiery eye that blazed up at me every way I turned it. I hurried to the house with the pebble, saddled my mule and started for Murfreesboro…riding through the lane, my eye caught another glitter, and I dismounted and picked it up out of the dust, he said.
“Huddleston sold his diamond-bearing land for $36,000, according to a book by Howard Millar. Huddleston became nationally famous, and had acquired the nickname “Diamond John.” Although he was also known as the “Diamond King,” he later met with some misfortunes and died a very poor man. The approximate location of Huddleston’s first diamond find is designated on the diamond field by an historical marker on the south central mine boundary.
The diamond rush developed as soon as the word of the find got out in 1906. In fact, the Conway Hotel in Murfreesboro is said to have turned away more than 10,000 people who could not be accommodated in just one year. The tent city of Kimberly was established between Murfreesboro and the diamond field, but nothing remains of it today. The land was leased from the Millars and opened in 1951 as the Diamond Preserve of the United States. Later, the name was changed to the Crater of Diamonds. In 1972 the State of Arkansas bought the land for a state park for $750,000. About 60,000 people come to the Crater of Diamonds State Park each year to search for these precious gems.
Since diamonds were discovered on the site in 1906, more than 75,000 have been found. Since the site became a state park in 1972, more than 24,000 diamonds have been unearthed. Since the diamond has come to be associated with the state, the diamond shape is part of the design of the flag of Arkansas. The Arkansas State Quarter, released in 2003, bears a diamond on its face.
The largest documented diamond found at the site is the 40.23-carat “Uncle Sam” diamond that was discovered in 1924. The largest diamond found since the Crater of Diamonds became a state park was the 16.37-carat “Amarillo Starlight,” discovered in 1975. Other notable finds include the “Star of Murfreesboro” weighing 34.25 carats, the “Star of Arkansas,” which was 15.33 carats, and the 8.82-carat “Star of Shreveport.” The 4.25-carat “Kahn Canary” diamond was found here in 1977 and was worn by Hillary Clinton during the presidential inaugural balls as well as two gubernatorial inaugurations.