After 75 hours at the grinding wheel, master diamond cutter Mike Botha finally put the finishing touches on the "Esperanza" diamond — a gemstone that was plucked from the soil by Bobbie Oskarson at Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds State Park on June 24. Originally 8.52 carats in weight and the shape of an icicle, "Esperanza" has been transformed into a sleek and unique 4.65-carat "triolette."
The park visitor from Longmont, Colo., had paid $8 to do a bit of amateur mining at the park with her boyfriend and came away with a gemstone that could fetch upwards of $300,000 when it is sold at Heritage Auctions this December. She named the gem "Esperanza," the Spanish word for “hope.”
The freshly cut gem was recently sent to the labs of the American Gem Society, where it's expected to be graded as internally flawless and colorless. In a preliminary test, the gem was rated Type IIa, the purest of all diamonds because they are composed solely of carbon with virtually no trace elements in the crystal lattice.
Botha's 147-facet triolette is a shape of his own design. It resembles a teardrop and merges the elements of both emerald and trapezoid shapes. The diamond even has its own Facebook page.
The public was invited to witness the marathon cutting session on the showroom floor at Stanley Jewelers in North Little Rock, Ark., less than a two-hour drive from where Esperanza was originally found. Visitors to the store were encouraged to view the work in progress and ask questions of the master diamond cutter.
Also on hand to view Botha's handiwork was Oskarson, officials from Crater of Diamonds State Park and members of the local, national and international media. The multi-day event was also broadcast via live streaming video on YouTube.
Botha, who is the president of Embee Diamonds, had traveled all the way from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, with his heavy gear to participate in the momentous event.
"I’ve lost count of how many thousands of diamonds I’ve crafted over the last 48 years, and the Esperanza may not even rank among the largest," he said, "but it is an exceptional diamond. And to cut and polish her at home in The Natural State [of Arkansas] is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Before it hits the auction block in Dallas, Esperanza will be mounted in a custom designed platinum pendant created by award-winning U.S. designer Erica Courtney.
Esperanza is the fifth-largest diamond found by a visitor since the Crater of Diamonds State Park was established in Murfreesboro in 1972. The park offers visitors the opportunity to search in the eroded surface of the eighth-largest, diamond-bearing deposit in the world. Any diamonds or semi-precious stones found in the 37 1/2-acre plowed field are theirs to keep.
"While we identify and register hundreds of diamonds every year, we rarely have an opportunity to personally experience the continuing story of our diamonds — to see what happens after they leave the park," park interpreter Waymon Cox told Jewelry News Network. "The Esperanza Diamond is an historic find for our park, state and nation. We are excited to follow this beautiful gem as it enters a new chapter.”
Photo credits: Stanley Jewelers.