Found! Arkansas' "Brown Rice Diamond"
By: Glenn W. Worthington
I have had a lot of success finding diamonds in Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds State Park's east drainage area. Among them was a 2/3 carat, naturally heart-shaped white diamond and a 2.04 carat flawless yellow gem. But after many months of digging and washing in the east drainage ditch, I felt that the good, reachable, diamond-rich gravel was running out in that area. Last winter, I decided that I wanted to find a new area in the park to search for diamonds.
I took my 6' T-handle probing rod and walked to the southern end of the diamond search field, where I had found my first ten diamonds 'way back in the summer of 1978. I remember that other miners had dug and found diamonds on both sides of a pathway, but during the seven weeks I was there no one had dug in the dirt roadway. Maintenance vehicles drove up and down it to clean mud out of the trough where miners washed the gravel that they dug. Now the maintenance crew did not drive there anymore, because about two decades ago new, covered wash pavilions had been built to the north. So, people no longer used this old trough or the pathway leading to it.
Since the dirt pathway was no longer in use, it was permissible for me to dig there. The only question was whether someone else had thought of this and dug all the good gravel out years earlier. To find out, I pushed a probe into the dirt to feel for gravel. Time after time I pushed it all the way down to the handle and never once felt the hoped-for grind of gravel against the rod. Apparently, the only thing there was gravel-free silt.
I was ready to abandon my idea when two of my diamond-mining friends, Bill and Dave, walked by and saw what I was doing. They, too, had been out searching for a new area in which to dig. When I explained what I was doing and why, Bill offered to use his 7' probe rod to check the area. Maybe the gravel I was hoping for was just a little deeper. When he pushed his rod down into the probe holes I had made, Bill hit gravel just 6" past the reach of my rod. So, we had good news: No one had beaten us to the gravel. It was still there waiting to be dug up.
Bill, Dave and I agreed to spend weeks digging up that area together. At the end of each day of digging we planned to evenly split the buckets of gravel we recovered. Whatever diamonds each of us found in our buckets were ours to keep.
In the very first hole we dug in the old, dirt pathway we hit a solid object about 4' deep. At first we could not see it due to the mud, but the ends of our shovels told us that this long object ran diagonally across the entire length of the hole. After we dug around it and cleaned it off, Bill and Dave still did not recognize it, but I knew what it was because I had seen a portion of it buried at the park 32 years earlier. It was a 102-year-old water pipe made of wood lath wrapped with coils of wire, and it was incredibly well preserved for having been underground for so long. Measuring 6" in diameter on the inside and 8" on the outside, this old pipe had been capable of delivering a large volume of water.
Just two years after diamonds were first discovered at the site in 1906, a pump had been installed alongside the Little Missouri River. Hundreds of feet of this lath-and-coil piping had been laid on top of the ground, extending all the way to the diamond fields. It supplied water to a tower that fed the necessary water to a plant that separated the diamonds from the soil. The large diameter pipe also fed a water cannon used to blast the surface of the ancient volcano, washing mud, gravel, and diamonds downhill into a long wooden sluice box. The theory was that the denser material (diamonds) would get trapped by the wooden slats in the bottom of the sluice.
The miners did find many diamonds this way, but they also probably washed more diamonds off the end of the sluice than they trapped. They were using gold recovery methods for diamonds. The problem is that although diamonds are somewhat denser than the other material they were washing, they are not nearly as dense as gold.
The result was that many diamonds that washed past the end of the sluice settled in the mud immediately downstream. The miners were washing soil with the water cannon from north to south. The water pipe lay on top of the ground and ran east to west. The gravel in the mud settled out in front of, under, and behind this large pipe. Eventually, this pipe that had once rested on top of the ground now lay under 4' of silt- but in the process, it had captured gravel and diamonds all around it.
Bill, Dave and I dug seven holes that followed the old pipe clear across the former pathway. We found over seven carats of diamonds in those first seven holes. Then, in the next five holes that we dug, one of us found a single diamond. We had even dug two of the worthless holes in between two paying holes. We just never knew if there would be any diamonds in the gravel until we washed all of it. One of the 7' deep holes we dug ended up not having any gravel in the bottom of it at all. Someone had beaten us to it years earlier. This is one of the problems of prospecting in a park that has been open to the public for decades. After digging all day, the three of us had to fill the hole back in up to the top without getting anything for all that effort.
One day we dug a hole beside the pipe as it extended past the side of the pathway, only to discover cans and trash that some park visitor had thrown in the hole when he had dug it years earlier. Bill was discouraged by this sign and wanted to fill the hole in and leave, but I argued that it was still early in the day. Since we didn't have to fill it in until just before it was time for the park to close for the day, I asked for more time to work the hole. I poked around and was convinced that someone had taken all the gravel from in front of and behind the pipe, but they had left a little gravel under the pipe. I was only able to fill 12 buckets with gravel. That was just four each. We usually get much more for our day's work. However, when we washed the gravel the next day, Bill found a gorgeous, perfect, 65-point yellow diamond. We were glad we had not all gotten discouraged, given up, and filled the hold in too soon.
As a new year began, our partner Dave found a lovely, 1.31-carat dark, coffee-brown diamond that we had dug out from under the pipe. We all celebrated with him, but two months later we had almost exhausted all of the good spots to dig diamond-promising gravel. Very near the end of our time digging together there at the south end of the field, Dave found another big gem... a 1.96-carat white diamond! That was an exhilarating way to end a great run of diamond recoveries with my friends.
We had found large and small diamonds, from all three of the main diamond color groups found at the park- white, brown, and yellow. But the largest diamond found during our months of digging together ended up in one of my buckets. In fact, it is the largest diamond I have ever found, and it was among the more than seven carats of diamonds that we found in our first seven holes. Here's how it happened...
I had gotten a little behind my partners in my gravel washing, and one day Bill and Dave dug a hole together without me, while I tried to get caught up on my washing. This process consists of cleaning the mud out of the gravel and then sorting it to size. Next, I hand-jig the 1/8" gravel together in a round screen called a sarucca. This concentrates the heavy gravel in the center and bottom of the screen. Then I flip it over like a big pancake and remove the sarucca screen. I've gotten used to doing this hundreds of times without finding anything, but on this day when I flipped it over and removed the screen, I saw a large, light brown diamond in the center of the gravel. I carried it over to where my friends were digging, held out my hand, and asked, "What do you think this is?"
Bill answered, "It's a big diamond!"
We all rejoiced together that our toil had unearthed another large gem. Ten months earlier I had found a 2.04-carat yellow gem in a hole I had dug myself. This new diamond was about the same size and shape, and I wondered if it would weigh even more than my previous "biggie."
Before I took my latest find into the park's Diamond Discovery Center to be weighed and entered into the official registery of diamond finds, I had tipped off a Little Rock television station, and they sent a news crew to cover the event. When my diamond was placed on the digital scales, it read, "2.13 carats." Wow! That was my biggest diamond in nearly 32 years of searching.
The state park's policy is that any diamond that weighs over two carats can be named. Since it had an elongated shape and was light brown in color, I decided to call it, "The Brown Rice Diamond." Newspapers and radio & TV stations across Arkansas carried the news of this big diamond find.
I usually feel that diamonds from Arkansas are so naturally beautiful that they should not be cut. Many are lovely if they are mounted in their uncut form. However, I felt that the Brown Rice Diamond could be improved with cutting. Since it was an Arkansas diamond, I wanted to have it cut here in the U.S. My wife, Cindy, and I knew of diamond cutters in North Dakota and had previously tried them out on three smaller diamonds and been pleased with their work. So, we were willing to trust them with our big diamond.
Because of its shape, Cindy and I felt that it would lend itself well to a marquise cut. When we received it back from the cutter, we were indeed pleased with it. Typically diamonds lose half of their original weight when they are cut, but our diamond remained a fairly large and heavy stone, weighing in at 1.21 carats. And it was beautiful! It no longer resembled brown rice at all. It had measured 4.4mm deep x 5mm wide x 10.9mm long when I found it. After cutting, it measured 3.70mm deep x 4.81mm wide x 10.70mm long. So, it really did not lose much of its size at all.
Next, we sent the cut diamond to the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, California for grading. When we received the diamond and the grade report back, the paperwork verified that the color was an evenly saturated, natural, fancy yellowish brown. These experts determined the clarity to be "VVS2," which is much better than is usually available for purchase through a jewelry store. This rating stands for "Very, very slight inclusion," meaning that any inclusion or blemish is so small or insignificant that it is difficult to locate under 10X magnification. The GIA also noted that under black light this diamond has a strong, blue fluorescence. This characteristic does not increase the value any, but it is another mark of its uniqueness. We had the GIA grade report number micro laser engraved on the side of the stone's girdle for proof that this grade report matched this diamond. Although we have sold most of the other diamonds I have found over the years, we are still holding onto this large brown one, along with the two that W&ET recognized as Best Finds of 2008 and 2009.
Although the Brown Rice Diamond is my largest find, it isn't my most valuable. As mentioned earlier, I found a flawless 2.04-carat yellow diamond in 2009. It is only slightly smaller, and both diamonds are comparable in purity, but the color makes the brown less valuable than the intense yellow. White and brown diamonds are the most common colors found worldwide. Yellow diamonds are more rare, and intense yellow diamonds are rarer still. It is their rarity that makes the fancy yellow diamonds more valuable. Even so, now that the GIA has professionally graded our marquise-cut, 1.21-carat brown diamond, we know that it is worth an impressive $9,800. That certainly more than repays all of the effort of digging and washing, and even makes the fruitless days of digging and washing worthwhile when you factor all of the search time together.
Diamond finding is similar to other treasure hunting. It is wise first to study the history, develop a theory, and then go to work to prove that your idea has merit. This process has paid off well for me and my friends at Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds State Park.
GLENN W. WORTHINGTON is the host of the DVD "How to Find Genuine Diamonds in Arkansas," and the author of the book Genuine Diamonds Found in Arkansas. Copies are available through his website at www.DiamondsInAR.com