A recreational prospector celebrating her 30th birthday at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas scooped up one of the biggest discoveries of the year, so far — a 2.10-carat iced-tea brown diamond. The park is the only diamond-producing site in the world where the public can mine for diamonds and keep what they find.
Park officials reported that Andrea Murphy of Gentry, Ark., was prospecting for about two hours on Friday with eight family members when she spied the glistening stone and plucked it right off the ground. The search area at the park is a 37 1/2-acre plowed field, which is actually the eroded surface of an ancient volcanic crater.
At first, she wasn’t sure if the stone was valuable, but park officials confirmed that it was, in fact, a diamond. Murphy has since named the stone the “Andrea Birthday Diamond.”
“Because of their dark color, brown diamonds are the most difficult to find,” said Park Interpreter Margi Jenks. “However, this is the second large brown diamond found at the park in the last two weeks. A beautiful 1.61-carat brown diamond was found by a park visitor from St. Louis, Mo., on March 28.”
Jenks explained that the conditions at the park on Friday were perfect for a diamond to be found on the surface. “The park received a number of washing rainstorms in March, and then yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. A good, hard rain will wash dirt away that may be covering the diamonds. So, when diamonds are on the surface of the field, they sparkle, and can be seen easily,” she said.
In the early years of the mine, between 1907 and 1932, the equipment that sifted the soil used screens with mesh larger than 1/16 inch. Due to this large dimension, thousands of smaller diamonds were allowed to pass through. In recent decades, these smaller diamonds have tantalized recreational diamond diggers.
Since 1972, more than three million park visitors have tried their luck. Over that same time, the field has yielded more than 30,000 diamonds, and 900 of those weighed more than 1 carat.
The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. Other large notable finds from the Crater include the Star of Murfreesboro (34.25 carats) and the Star of Arkansas (15.33 carats).
The park staff provides free identification and registration of diamonds. Park interpretive programs and exhibits explain the site’s geology and history, and offer tips on recognizing diamonds in the rough. Cost of admission is just $7 ($4 for children).
The three most common diamond colors found at the Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro are white, brown and yellow. Other gems and minerals found in the park's search area include amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite and quartz.