Dean Filppula is the latest amateur gem hunter to strike it rich at Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park. A week ago, the vacationing offshore steward from Shreveport, La., picked a glistening 2.01-carat yellow diamond right off the surface of the just-plowed, rain-washed search field.
Filppula honored his mother by naming the stone “Merf.” (The four letters spell out his mother’s initials). The light-yellow diamond, which is the size of an English pea and has a wedge shape, is the 20th diamond to be found at the park the year. It’s also the year’s largest, so far.
Park officials are not diamond appraisers, so they could not estimate Merf’s value. History tells us, however, that diamonds found at the park can yield a pretty penny. For instance, a 3.85-carat diamond found in 2013 was recently sold for $20,000.
The 37½-acre search field in Murfreesboro, Ark., is actually the eroded surface of an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. Treasure hunters visit year round to try their luck at bagging a precious gem at the only diamond site in the world open to the general public. The entry fee is a modest $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 to 12. Kids under 6 get in for free.
The park maintains a generous finder’s keepers policy and even provides experts to help prospectors identify what they’ve found. Besides diamonds, the search field often yields amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite and quartz.
Filppula's exceptional find resulted from a combination of good luck and clever planning. He timed his visit to Crater of Diamonds Park to be just after the maintenance crew plowed the field, loosening the diamond-bearing soil. The park also had just received more than ½-inch of rain, which washed loose soil from the surface and cleaned off the diamond, making it more visible.
According to interpreter Waymon Cox, Shreveport residents have had a long and successful history of finding large diamonds at the park. In June 1981, Carroll Blankenship took home the second-largest diamond ever unearthed at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Cox named the stunning 8.82-carat white diamond the Star of Shreveport.
More than 75,000 diamonds have been pulled from the Murfreesboro site since farmer John Huddleston, who owned the land, found the first precious gems in 1906. The site became an Arkansas state park in 1972. The largest diamond ever discovered in the U.S. was unearthed here in 1924. Named the Uncle Sam, the white diamond with a pink cast weighed an astounding 40.23 carats.
Photos courtesy of the Crater of Diamonds State Park.