The Crater of Diamonds is an Arkansas State Park located in Murfreesboro in Pike County, Arkansas, USA containing the only diamond mine in the world that is open to the public.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is an 888 acre (3.6 km2) Arkansas State Park 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. Park visitors find more than 600 diamonds each year of all colors and grades. Over 24,000 diamonds have been found in the crater since it became a state park. Visitors may keep any gemstone they find regardless of its value (and some, as listed below, have been quite valuable).
In addition to diamonds, visitors may find semi-precious gems such as amethyst, agate, and jasper or approximately 40 other minerals such as garnet, phlogopite, quartz, barite, and calcite.
The crater itself is a 35 acre (142,000 m2) gravelly open field that is periodically plowed to bring the diamonds and other gemstones to the surface. The remainder of the park consists of a visitor’s center, interpretive center, campground, and picnic area. A 1.3 mile (2 km) walking trail along the Little Missouri River is available for hikers.
Murfreesboro is located just south of Hot Springs, Arkansas, the location of Hot Springs National Park. 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.
The first diamond was found at Murfreesboro in 1906 by John Huddleston who owned the property. Several attempts at commercial exploitation of the site have failed.
Soon after the original diamond was found, a “diamond rush” turned Murfreesboro into a boomtown for a time. Hotels in Murfreesboro are said to have turned away 10,000 people in the space of a year. These refugees formed a tent city near the mine which was named “Kimberly” in hopeful honor of the famous Kimberley Diamond Mine in South Africa.
From 1952 to 1972, the crater was a privately owned tourist attraction. Between 1964 and 1968, Roscoe Johnston leased 49 acres of diamond bearing land adjacent to the crater and operated it as a tourist attraction under the name: “Arkansas Diamond Mine”. It was during this time that the “Star of Murfreesboro” and the “Phillips 66” diamonds were found.
In 1972, the state of Arkansas purchased the crater and converted it into the unique state park it is today.
Due in part to the park (and since Arkansas is the first state where diamonds were found “in situ”), the diamond has come to be associated with the state and 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, and the former seal of Arkansas State University incorporated a multi-faceted diamond.
The Crater of Diamonds volcanic pipe is part of a 95 million-year-old eroded volcano. The deeply sourced lamproite magma, from the upper mantle, brought the diamonds to the surface. The diamonds had crystallized in the cratonic root of the continent long before, and were sampled by the magma as it rose to the surface.
Diamond hunters at the park use a variety of techniques to locate the gemstones. Pavilions with sluice beds are provided within the crater and hunters gather buckets of the gravelly soil and sort through them by hand while washing. Others sift the soil through wire mesh screens that are provided. The park staff weigh and categorize the gemstones and minerals found for park visitors free of charge.
Notable Diamonds found
- 1917 ~ Lee J. Wagner of the Arkansas Diamond Company – 17.86 carats, exceptional canary yellow (the uncut gem is on display in the National Museum of Natural History)
- 1924 ~ The Uncle Sam – at 40.23 carats (8.046 g), the largest diamond ever found at the park, and also the largest diamond ever discovered in North America
- 1956 ~ The Star of Arkansas – 15.33 carats (3.066 g)
- 1975 ~ The Amarillo Starlight – 16.37 carats (3.274 g)
- 1981 ~ The Star of Shreveport – 8.82 carats (1.76 g)
- 1997 ~ The Cooper Diamonds – 6.72 & 6.0 carats (1.34 and 1.2 g)
- 1998 ~ The Dickinson-Stevens Diamond – 7.28 carats (1.46 g)
- 1998 ~ The Strawn-Wagner Diamond, a cut white diamond weighing 3.03 carats (606 mg), later cut to 1.09 carats (218 mg), graded by the American Gem Society (AGS) as a “D” Flawless 0/0/0 perfect diamond (the highest grade a diamond can receive)
- 2006 ~ Melissa Lacey – 1.3 carats
- 2006 ~ Donald and Brenda Roden – 6.35 carats
- 2006 ~ Bob Wehle – 5.47 carats, canary yellow color with no visible flaws
- 2006 ~ The Star of Thelma – 2.37 carats (white)