During the past month I’ve reported on two Arkansas couples finding diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds, an Arkansas state park known for allowing visitors to dig for diamonds and keep what they find. The search area is a 37.5-acre plowed field. The park calls itself the world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public.

Beth Gilbertson holds her 8.66-carat white diamond. Image courtesy todaysthv.com

On March 20, Melissa and Kenny Oliver of Rosston, Arkansas unearthed a flawless 2.44-carat silver white diamond which they named the “Silver Moon.”

Earlier this month a longtime visitor to the park who chose to remain anonymous found an even bigger diamond, a 3.86-carat jewel dubbed the “Heart of Arkansas” for its heart shape. It was the largest find at the park since someone dug up an almost 5-carat brown diamond last April.

In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at the 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.

Woman finds 8.66-carat diamond

A Colorado woman unearthed an 8.66-carat white diamond at the Crater of Diamonds State Park on Tuesday (April 26, 2011). Roughly the size of a nickel it’s the third largest diamond found by a visitor since the park was established.

Park Officials say Beth Gilbertson of Salida, Colorado has been a regular visitor to the park for over a year since seeing the Travel Channel’s “The Best Places to Find Cash and Treasures” which included a segment on the Crater of Diamonds.

“The diamond is jaw-dropping,” says park interpreter Waymon Cox. “It’s icy white with a metallic luster. And, it’s a flat trapezoidal-shape crystal and the size of a nickel.”

Size comparison: 8.66-carat diamond and nickel. Image courtesy todaysthv.com

“Large diamonds continue to be found here at the Crater of Diamonds State Park,” says park superintendent Justin Dorsey. “This absolutely beautiful white diamond is the third largest diamond of the 27,000 diamonds found by park visitors since the Crater of Diamonds became an Arkansas state park in 1972.”

A man from Amarillo, Texas found a 16.37-carat diamond in the park in 1975, and a woman from Shreveport, Louisiana found one weighing 8.82 carats in 1981.

“It has been almost 30 years since we’ve seen a diamond of this size found at the park. And, we are all so happy for Ms. Gilbertson,” Dorsey says.

Joan Ellison, Public Information Officer for Arkansas State Parks, said about two diamonds are found each day at the park, but the best time to dig is after rainy weather.

“The perfect time to find diamonds is after a rain storm and the sun has come out,” she said. “Diamonds have an oily skin around them, so when it rains that dirt will slide off that oily skin and when the sun comes out they’ll sparkle.”

Gilbertson’s visit to the park coincided with a recent bout of severe storms that hammered through much of Arkansas Monday and Tuesday nights.

She said she had been showing two other visitors how to search for diamonds on Beatty’s Hill, an area she didn’t normally frequent. After scraping gravel out of a drainage ditch, she discovered the diamond while sifting buckets of dirt at a washing station.

“I knew (Arkansas) had some really bad storms recently, so it’s had some erosion,” she said. “I found an area that was collecting water and I figured that might be a good place for a diamond to land. I guess it was.”

You'll pass through the park's Diamond Discovery Center on your way to the diamond search area. Photo courtesy Arkansas State Parks

Gilbertson said she certified the diamond at the park Wednesday morning after thinking all night about what to name it.

She said she settled on naming it “The Illusion Diamond” because at first she thought it had been a piece of glass but after holding it in her hand realized it was an actual diamond.

“I’d collected four buckets of dirt for me to search and two for the other visitors,” she says. “The diamond ended up being in one of my buckets.”

“I’ve found other diamonds at the park, but when I first noticed this one, I couldn’t quite believe that something that large could be a real diamond. I thought it was a piece of glass.  So, I asked another visitor, this is a diamond, right?”

That’s how it became “The Illusion Diamond.” It is the 196th diamond find at the park this year.

Gilbertson said she isn’t quite sure what she is going to do with the diamond yet, but it’s already safely tucked away in a safe deposit box.

“I’m just going to hold on to it right now and be able to look at it and appreciate it and show it around. After that I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll probably take a break for a few days and then head back out there. I know there’s always a bigger one out there than the one I have now.”


Crater of Diamonds State Park

Operating Hours: Visitor Center/Diamond Discovery Center is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., extended summer hours

Admission: Adults $7.00, children (age 6-12) $4

Camping: $21-28

Location: From Murfreesboro, take Arkansas 301 and go 2.5 miles southwest to the park

Address: 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958

Contact: (870) 285-3113

Worth Pondering…
Angels are like diamonds. They can’t be made, you have to find them. Each one is unique.

—Jaclyn Smith

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