Diamond Hunting!

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It’s finder’s keepers at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The only public diamond mine in the world, Crater of Diamonds offers you a one-of-a-kind adventure – the opportunity to hunt for real diamonds and to keep any mineral you find.

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Monday we woke up early with plans to get on the road by 5:30 am. Our intention was to work our way towards Memphis, TN. We said our “goodbyes” the night before to all our family. The last of the wedding guests were heading out after a magical weekend, with Kelly’s family and our family the first to pull out since we each had a 11 hour drive ahead of us.

As we drove along I searched for sites along the way that we might want to see while we were in the area. We are firm believers that if you are in an area of the country you normally don’t frequent, you might as well stop and see the top sites, for who knows when we will be out that way again.

It was  that mindset that led us off the highway to Crater of Diamonds State Park. I remember hearing about this unique state park and when we discovered it was along our path of travel there was no way we could drive by and not stop.

When else in our lives will be have the opportunity to go mining for diamonds?!

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We arrived and headed first into the Visitors Center where we learned more about the geologic history that led to the formation of the diamonds in the park, as well as the history of discovery and mining on the land.

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We also saw displays that showcased the diamonds that are found in the park and what they look like in their uncut state, giving us a better idea of what we needed to be on the lookout for.

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Then we paid the mining admission price and headed out to the mining fields to begin searching,

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after a quick stop at the pavilion to rent our mining equipment.

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What a thrill it was stepping out onto the field, with the prospect of finding a diamond a distant but exciting possibility.

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The kids were convinced they were on the brink of discovering their life’s fortune.

We began searching the 37-acre plowed field – the eroded surface of an ancient, diamond-bearing volcanic pipe.

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We had three options for diamond hunting and ended up exploring all three strategies.

The first was surface searching. With this strategy visitors search the surface of the field in search of crystals that have been exposed by rain or plowing. We began our search with surface searching.

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The second method is screening. With this strategy visitors shake soil through a screen to find minerals. This method is most effective when the soil is dry. This was the next method we tried.

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The third method, and the one we spent the most time using, is wet screening. With this method of diamond hunting visitors use the water available at the mine washing stations to rinse dirt through a screen and collect the minerals that are left behind.

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It was so much fun. The process was as satisfying as the hunt itself. We filled bucket after bucket from the field and sifted and rinsed, collecting the minerals that were left behind.

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In addition to the diamonds in the soil, other rocks and minerals were found hidden in the soil, including: Jasper, Agate, Quartz, Amethyst, Calcite, Barite, and Mica.

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But as cool as all those pretty minerals were, everyone was tunnel focused on finding the elusive diamond.

Since diamonds were first discovered on the site in 1906, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed.

When John Huddleston plucked two diamonds from the greenish-colored dirt of his farm, a hysteria known as “diamond fever” ensued. Although the excitement has since waned, interest in Arkansas’s diamond mine remains high. About 120,000 people come to Huddleston’s old farm site, now the Crater of Diamonds State Park, each year to search for these precious gems.

This Arkansas crater is the only diamond mine in the world where the public can pay a fee to dig and keep any gems they find.

Although thousands of people have dug and sifted through the volcanic “lamproite” soil, there are still plenty of diamonds waiting to be discovered. Since the park opened in 1972, more than 30,000 diamonds have been found. This is still a place where diamonds are found regularly — park officials say about two are found by park visitors each day.

Not all of the finds have been small. The largest documented diamond find is the 40.23-carat “Uncle Sam” diamond, which was discovered in 1924. The largest diamond retrieved 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 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  mounted on a ring worn by Hillary Clinton during the presidential inaugural balls. The 3.03-carat “Strawn-Wagner Diamond,” found in 1990 was cut to a 1.09-carat gem graded D-flawless 0/0/0 (the highest grade a diamond can achieve) by the American Gem Society.

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Geologists believe these diamonds were formed millions of years ago with tremendously high pressure and temperature and shot to the earth’s surface during a violent volcanic eruption. The portion of the crater that is known to be diamond bearing is about 37 acres and is the eroded surface of an ancient volcanic pipe.

Test drilling at the crater has shown that the reserve is shaped like a martini glass; it is believed to be the eighth largest diamond reserve in the world, in surface area.

We stayed for 4 hours digging in the dirt and playing in the water, in search of a diamond to call our own.

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When we were ready to leave and get back on the road in our journey towards Little Rock, we stopped at the Diamond Discovery Center to have our haul examined.

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A kind and informative ranger looked over the kids’ pile of rocks as they held their breath. After careful examination, he broke the news that we didn’t find any diamonds but sifted through their pile explaining to them all that they did find out in the field. It was an awesome geology lesson, as he took 20 minutes to explain to the kids why diamonds exist in this particular area, and describe the unique characteristics of the rocks and minerals they did find.

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We didn’t find any diamonds during our visit to Crater of Diamonds State Park, but I left the proud owner of something of far greater worth:

A once in a lifetime experience with my greatest jewels!

What an awesome day!

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