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1.11-Carat, White Diamond Found at Crater of Diamonds State Park by Nine-Year-Old Visitor From Illinois

June 9, 2006

Arkansas White DiamondMurfreesboro, Arkansas — Nine-year-old Courtney Conder of Grantsburg, Illinois, wants to be an archeologist when she grows up. According to her mother, Dawn Conder, “Courtney loves looking and digging in the ground. She’s always coming home with pockets full of rocks, but this one won’t end up in my washing machine.” That’s because Courtney’s latest find is a flawless, 1.11-carat white diamond that she unearthed today around 9:10 a.m. at Arkansas’s diamond site, the Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro.

After wanting to visit the diamond site for the past several years, the family finally had their opportunity and arrived at the park yesterday. They searched for diamonds throughout the day, but had no luck. However, after returning to the park today and digging for about 10 minutes on the surface of the diamond search area with a child’s hand shovel, Courtney found her diamond. She plans to call her gem, which she says is real clear, “The Sparkles Diamond.” Courtney noted that her father, William Conder, wants to have the stone cut and mounted in a necklace, but she wants to keep the diamond in its natural form.

Courtney found the gem near a sign that marks the location where the “Uncle Sam” diamond was found in 1924. That rose-tinted, white diamond weighing 40.23 carats in the rough was unearthed during an early, privately operated mining operation there. That gem remains the largest diamond ever unearthed in the U.S.

Park Superintendent Tom Stolarz said, “Courtney’s elongated, tear-shaped gem is a very beautiful, very nice diamond. It appears flawless.” He said that it’s the 218th diamond that has been found by visitors at the park this year.

Stolarz noted that other children have discovered diamonds at the park and it’s always thrilling for other visitors and the park staff when a young person unearths one. She had a smile on her face, Stolarz said, “that you couldn’t erase.” Courtney was especially pleased when she heard the park’s siren sound, as is the park’s custom, to alert other visitors on the search area that a diamond had been found.

According to Stolarz, “In the summer months, it’s mostly family groups searching here in the diamond area.” He continued, “There are as many children out there as adults at this time of year.”

Along with finding a diamond, the family also found a new friend at the park. They credited Donald Mayes of Springdale, a regular diamond miner at the park, with teaching them how to search the park for diamonds. Mayes has long been known to park visitors and is featured in the “Hall of Fame” exhibit gallery at the park’s new interpretive facility, the Diamond Discovery Center. As soon as Courtney’s diamond was verified by the park staff this morning, she hurried to Mayes to show her find to him.

“The park offers many recreational choices for children including the park’s aquatic playground, Diamond Springs, and the new Diamond Discovery Center,” Stolarz said, “but the essential park experience for them, like adults, is the opportunity to search for real diamonds and the other semi-precious stones, rocks and minerals that are found here.” He emphasized that the park policy is finder-keepers. “What park visitors find in the 37 ½-acre diamond search area is theirs to keep.”

Courtney’s mother said, “When my husband and I were planning our visit here, we said that if one of the three of us found a diamond, it would be Courtney. And, she did!”

According to Courtney, she spends lots of time collecting arrowheads and petrified wood in Illinois with her dad. When park officials asked Courtney what it felt like to find her diamond, she said, “I’m proud of it.” And she noted that her teacher, who retired at the end of this school year, would have been proud of her, too.

Now, she can add a real diamond from Arkansas to her collection.

The search area at the Crater of Diamonds State Park is a 37 ½-acre plowed field, 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. The park offers visitors a one-of-a-kind experience, the opportunity to prospect for real diamonds. Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The three most common colors found at the park are white, brown and yellow, in that order. On average, two diamonds are found each day.

The park staff provides free identification and certification of diamonds. Park interpretive programs and exhibits explain the site’s geology and history and offer tips on recognizing diamonds in the rough.

In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at Arkansas’s diamond site since those first 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 addition to the "Uncle Sam,” other large notable finds from the Crater include the "Star of Murfreesboro" (34.25 carats) and the "Star of Arkansas" (15.33 carats).

The largest diamond of the 25,000 discovered by park visitors since the Crater became an Arkansas state park in 1972 was the 16.37-carat "Amarillo Starlight." W. W. Johnson of Amarillo, Texas found this spectacular gem-quality, white diamond in 1975.

In June 1981, the 8.82-carat "Star of Shreveport" was added to the growing list of large valuable stones found at the Crater.

Other semi-precious gems and minerals found at the Crater of Diamonds include 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.

Crater of Diamonds State Park is located two miles southeast of Murfreesboro. It is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

For more information visit www.Craterofdiamondsstatepark.com.


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