June 9, 2006
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
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
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