MURFREESBORO, AR (News release) - Brandon Kalenda’s mother-in-law watched the segment of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” where the Jim Bob Duggar family visited the Crater of Diamonds State Park. She decided that her family also needed to experience Arkansas’s diamond site, and talked them all into it. So during their travels through Arkansas last week from Louisiana to Minnesota to visit family, they stopped to enjoy the park. While they searched in the park’s 37 ½-acre search area, Kalenda, who lives in Maurepas, Louisiana, unearthed a 2.89-carat white diamond. He named his stone the Jax Diamond after his infant son, Jackson. Kalenda told park staff he plans to keep the diamond.
According to Park Interpreter Margi Jenks, “No two diamonds in the rough are alike. This is a triangular-shaped diamond with a metallic appearance, and it’s about the size of an English pea.” She noted that this was Brandon Kalenda’s first time to visit the park. He’d watched the Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” and figured diamond hunting was like looking for gold, and that a diamond would be in a pocket of little rocks. “Sure enough, Brandon found his diamond after searching for about 20 minutes in the Fugitt’s Bank area of the park’s search area,” Jenks said. “We encourage park visitors to look for pockets or layers on the surface of gravel, and search there. That’s exactly what Brandon was doing.”
Jenks noted that the Jax Diamond is the 47th diamond registered by a park visitor this year, and the fourth diamond weighing over a carat found at the park since the middle of February.
She emphasized, “Conditions are perfect for diamond hunting right now. The park staff plowed the diamond search field at the end of January, and the park received about one and a quarter inch of rain on Sunday—a good, hard washing rain.” Jenks continued, “Diamonds are a bit heavy for their size, and they lack static electricity, so rainfall slides the dirt off diamonds that are on the surface of the search field leaving them exposed. When the sun comes out, they’ll shine and be noticeable.”
The search area at the Crater of Diamonds is a 37 ½-acre plowed field that is the eroded surface of the eighth largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world, in surface area. It is the world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public. In addition to diamonds, semi-precious gems and minerals are found in the park’s search area including amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite, and quartz. Over 40 different rocks and minerals are unearthed at the Crater making it a rock hound's delight.
The park’s policy is finder-keepers. What park visitors find is theirs to keep. The park staff provides free identification and registration of diamonds. Park interpretive programs and exhibits explain the site’s geology and history, and offer tips on recognizing diamonds in the rough.
Many factors help visitors who like to surface search for diamonds at the park. Park personnel regularly plow the diamond search area to bring fresh, eroded diamond ore to the surface. Then, erosion from heavy rains concentrates the heavy rocks and minerals, like diamonds, in the low-lying parts of the search area.
In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at Arkansas’s diamond site since the first diamonds found in 1906 by John Huddleston, the farmer who at that time owned the land, long before the site became an Arkansas state park in 1972. The largest diamond ever discovered in the U.S. was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. Notable diamonds found by park visitors since the state park was established at the site include the Amarillo Starlight, a 16.37-carat white diamond discovered in 1975 which ranks as the largest diamond ever found by a park visitor. The second largest find by a park visitor is the Star of Shreveport, an 8.82-carat white gem unearthed in 1981. In 2011, a visitor from Colorado found an 8.66-carat white diamond she named the Illusion Diamond, which is the third-largest gem registered here since the Crater of Diamonds State Park was established in 1972.
Another notable diamond from the Crater of Diamonds that has received much national attention is the 1.09-carat D-flawless Strawn-Wagner Diamond. Discovered in 1990 by park visitor Shirley Strawn of Murfreesboro, this white gem weighed 3.03 carats in the rough before being cut to perfection in 1997 by the renowned diamond firm Lazare Kaplan International of New York. The gem is the most perfect diamond ever certified in the laboratory of the American Gem Society. It is on display in a special exhibit in the Crater of Diamonds State Park visitor center.
Another gem from the Crater is the flawless 4.25-carat Kahn Canary diamond that was discovered at the park in 1977. This uncut, triangular-shape gem has been on exhibit at many cities around the U.S. and overseas. It was featured in an illustrious jewelry exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1997 that included precious stones from throughout the world including the Kremlin collection, the Vatican, Cartier, and Christies. And, in late 1997, the Kahn Canary was featured in another prestigious exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York entitled “The Nature of Diamonds.” Former First Lady Hillary Clinton borrowed the Kahn Canary from its owner, Stan Kahn of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and wore it in a special, Arkansas-inspired ring setting designed by Henry Dunay of New York as a special way to represent Arkansas’s diamond site at the galas celebrating both of Bill Clinton’s presidential inaugurals.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is on Ark. 301 at Murfreesboro. It is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
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