The Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond mine in the world where you can search for your own diamonds, and yes, you can keep what you find! As one of the many Arkansas state parks, the Crater of Diamonds State Park is open to the public and only costs a nominal fee for entry.
In August 1906, John Huddleston found two strange crystals on the surface of his 243-acre farm near Murfreesboro, Arkansas, and soon became know as the first person outside South Africa to find diamonds at their original source. The following month, Huddleston and his wife, Sarah, sold an option on the 243 acres to a group of Little Rock investors headed by banker-attorney Samuel F. (Sam) Reyburn, who undertook a careful, deliberate test of the property.
After 1906, several attempts at commercial diamond mining failed. The only significant yields came from the original surface layer, where erosion over a long period of time had concentrated diamonds. In the early period, 1907-1932, yields from this "black gumbo" surface material often exceeded thirty carats per hundred loads (standard 1600-pound tramload of the early period). Highest yields from the undisturbed subsurface material (described as "kimberlite" or volcanic breccia, by the U. S. Geological Survey) were two carats per hundred loads in 1908 and about two carats per hundred short tons (2000 pounds)in 1943-1944.
From 1951 to 1972, the crater hosted several private tourist attractions. The first, The Diamond Preserve of the United States, lasted only about one year. In late 1951, Howard A. Millar stepped in and salvaged the infant tourist industry. In April 1952, Millar and wife, Modean, launched their "Crater of Diamonds" attraction. Howard Millar, an accomplished writer and promoter, stirred unprecedented national publicity and drew enough visitors to sustain the operation. In March 1956, a visitor found the "Star of Arkansas" on the cleared surface. The rare beauty weighed 15.33 carats. Later, Roscoe Johnston opened a rival tourist attraction, the "Arkansas Diamond Mine," on the main part of the diamond field.
The rivalry between the two tourist operations left both in a weakened position. In 1970 the entire volcanic formation was consolidated by a private partnership which then reassigned the property to General Earth Minerals of Dallas, Texas. GEM expected to turn the property over for a profit, but ended up heavily indebted to GF Industries of Dallas. Upon default, GFI took the property in July 1971.
GEM consolidated the tourist operation as well as the property. GFI continued the attraction until it sold the eighty-acre volcanic formation and some 800 surrounding acres to the State of Arkansas in March 1972, for $750,000. The tourist operation continued as the centerpiece of Crater of Diamonds State Park.
Due in part to the park, and also because Arkansas was the first place outside South Africa where diamonds were found at their original volcanic source, this special gem has come to be associated with the Natural State. A large diamond symbol has dominated the state flag since the early years. The Arkansas State Quarter, released in 2003, bears a diamond on its face.
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