For more than a decade, diamond-hunter Adam Hardin has been searching for valuable gems at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas—with some success. But though he’s found and sold some diamonds there, he’s never hit it big.
On April 10, that changed when he made the find of his life: A 2.38-carat brown diamond, his first topping two carats and the largest found at the park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, so far this year. Hardin nicknamed his precious stone “Frankenstone” because “it has a pretty and kind of not-so-pretty look to it,” he said in a statement issued by the park.
The shiny, coffee-colored gem is roughly the size of a pinto bean, according to the park. It’s round, with some crevices and inclusions, a gemology term that means there’s some material trapped inside from when the diamond formed.
When he made his big find, Hardin was searching for diamonds in the East Drain portion of the park’s 37.5-acre search area using a technique known as wet-sifting, which involves using multiple screens with different mesh sizes to wash away loose soil and separate particles. Heavier material falls to the bottom of the screen, including—sometimes—diamonds.
Gem and mineral miners like Hardin flock to this park in southwestern Arkansas because of its explosive geological past. Roughly 100 million years ago, a volcanic pipe erupted and, in the process, created an 81-acre crater. During the eruption, molten material called lamproite carried debris from the Earth’s mantle, including diamonds and other gems, to the surface.
Today’s Arkansas treasure-hunters are following in the footsteps of people like John Wesley Huddleston, aka “Diamond John,” who found the first recorded diamond in the Natural State in August 1906.
As historian Dean Banks writes in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Huddleston was “the first person outside South Africa to find diamonds at an original volcanic source,” and became “the controversial subject of numerous folk tales” along the way.
After Huddleston discovered diamonds on his farm, prospectors and tourists flocked to the area, finding diamonds of all shapes and sizes. A man from Dallas discovered the 15.33-carat white “Star of Arkansas” diamond, while a woman from Irving, Texas, found a 3.11-carat white diamond that looked like the profile of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1971, the state voted to designate the crater a state park, but continued to allow visitors to search for—and keep—gems they found there.
All told, the park estimates that miners have unearthed more than 75,000 diamonds there since Huddleston’s first find in 1906. Visitors find, on average, one or two diamonds each day within the park’s bounds, and park officials say that 260 registered diamonds have been discovered so far in 2022.
Park-goers don’t have to register their diamonds with the park, but many do because they get a card of authenticity in return, reports Greta Cross for the Springfield News-Leader.
The largest diamond ever found at the park is known as “Uncle Sam,” a 40.23-carat white diamond with a pink cast discovered in 1924. Visitors find diamonds in a variety of colors, but the most common are white, brown and yellow, per the park.
What miners do with those gems once they’ve uncovered them is totally up to them. Hardin has opted to sell his prized “Frankenstone” and buy a car with the proceeds, reports CNN’s Forrest Brown. He plans to keep digging, mostly for bragging rights in a friendly competition with another park-goer.
“One of the other guys and I have been going back and forth, seeing who can find the biggest diamond," Hardin said in the statement. "I found a big one, then he got a 1.79-carat, and we were joking about who would find the next big diamond and be ‘king of the mountain.’ As soon as I found this one, I had a feeling I had him beat. Now he’s trying to find a bigger one, but I'm planning on staying on top.”