On his first visit to Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park, a French tourist plucked a 7.46-carat chocolate brown diamond from the surface of the park’s 37.5-acre search area. About the size of a candy gumdrop, the roundish diamond is the eighth-largest ever discovered at the only diamond site in the world that’s open to the general public.
The park was not on Julien Navas's original itinerary. The Paris native's first stop was Cape Canaveral, FL, where he witnessed the launch of the moon-bound Vulcan Centaur Rocket on January 8. A few days later, he extended his trip to explore New Orleans with some friends and was intrigued by their stories about a park in Arkansas that sits upon the exposed eroded surface of an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe.
Navas had previously enjoyed his experiences panning for gold and searching for ammonite fossils, so he decided to add to his US adventure a stop at the world-famous diamond park in Murfreesboro.
Outfitted with rented gear, Navas got to work early on Thursday, January 11. The park had recently received more than an inch of rain, making the terrain wet and muddy.
“I got to the park around 9 o’clock and started to dig,” he said. “That is back-breaking work, so by the afternoon I was mainly looking on top of the ground for anything that stood out."
That strategy was not a bad one, because many of the park's largest diamonds have been found on the surface, according to Assistant Park Superintendent Waymon Cox.
“We periodically plow the search area to loosen the diamond-bearing soil and promote natural erosion,” he said. “As rain falls on the field, it washes away the dirt and uncovers heavy rocks, minerals and diamonds near the surface.”
After several hours of picking potential treasures, he carried his finds to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center. There he learned that one of his selections — a deep chocolate brown stone in the shape of a marble — was, indeed, a 7.46-carat diamond.
“I am so happy!" Navas exclaimed upon hearing the good news. "All I can think about is telling my fiancée what I found.”
In honor of his fiancée, he named his treasure the "Carine Diamond."
Navas told the park's administrators that he was planning to have the rough stone cut into two polished diamonds, one for his fiancée and one for his daughter. He also noted that he was planning to return to the park with his daughter once she's a bit older.
“It is always so exciting to see first time visitors find diamonds, especially large diamonds like this one,” said Park Interpreter Sarah Reap.
Navas called Crater of Diamonds State Park "a magical place, where the dream of finding a diamond can come true.”
The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed in Murfreesboro in 1924. Named the “Uncle Sam,” the white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. The site of that early mining operation became a state park in 1972.
Credits: Images courtesy of Arkansas State Parks.