A visitor of the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, found a sizable rough stone. Adam Hardin has been avidly searching for the precious gems for more than ten years before discovering this specimen, which is the largest one found in Arkansas since 2021.
Hardin has encountered hundreds of jewels over the years, and this “Frankenstone,” as he named it, was not his first significant find—although it is his largest. Brown in color, the rock weighs in at 2.38 carats, only to be outdone by a 4.38 carat jewel discovered by a Californian a year prior.
For many years, visitors from around the world converge on this 37-acre field situated inside an ancient volcanic crater. Since 1972 visitors have discovered more than 33,100 diamonds. Adults pay $10 each, and kids only $6; and families bring with them all sorts of non-motorized hand tools. They can dig to their hearts’ galore, and the park lets them keep their discoveries.
While the field is host to a multitude of other mineral rocks, diamonds in the park are prized finds that beckon the crowds, coming in white, brown and yellow colors.
While 2.38 carats is a remarkable find, a 14-year-old boy found a 7.44 carat piece in 2017. But the largest recorded in the United States was obtained at the same spot in 1924 before the park was established. The “Uncle Sam” stone weighed in at a whopping 40.23 carats. It was honed down to an emerald cut of 12.42 carats, with an outstanding grading of VVS1.
The finished Uncle Sam sold for $150,000 in 1971. While it might sound like an unbelievable value, when adjusted for inflation, that would come out to nearly $1.1 million in today’s dollars.
In 2022, it is valuated at about $800,000, so if the buyer had held onto his money, he’d actually be richer by $150,000. This, of course, begs the question of how these jewels are valuated, and graded.
While fancy colored jewels sell for more money than even brilliant white diamonds, it’s just not so with the brown variety found in Arkansas. Yet a lucky digger purportedly landed a white gem appraised at a million dollars
But according to one expert, “resorbed” specimens like those at the site are actually worth more than locals or miners say. This variety is the best quality for industrial applications, and stronger than African. According to naturallycolored.com, “A 1 carat brown diamond starts from approximately $2,500 and an F VS2 costs approximately $4,000.”
Charles Ekron is the managing director of Addler Holdings, a diamond trading company out of South Africa. “Grading a colored gemstone is more complex than a white one. Fancy colors involve considerations beyond the GIA 4Cs.”
When grading, labs rate attributes according to the “4Cs,” which stands for color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. This standard was created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), but disappointingly, GIA’s methods of grading aren’t a precise science.
Sidney Travers is the owner of a jewelry chain in Southern Florida. At a recent convention, he discussed problems with 4Cs labs. “Many, many times we’ve had discrepancies. Sellers would come to us with certified loose stones. We would ask for second opinions from another lab just to verify, and the results would come back differently. These little changes translate into thousands of dollars in this business.”
An Israeli company called Sarine Technologies operates the only certification lab of its kind in the world, where high-tech machines perform certified grading. Scan station sensors take a complete reading of a stone at much higher magnification and resolution than the GIA labs, which only use a 10x loupe and microscope.
Computers using artificial intelligence are far more accurate and objective than a lab technicians’ eye, and the technology measures attributes on a much wider spectrum than 4Cs guidelines. This comprehensive set of metrics including light performance, ensure that a diamond is evaluated properly, and the certification comes in the form of an always accessible digital report.
Mr. Hardin wrote that he decided to keep his stone, but experts say it might be a good idea to have it appraised by Sarine. Getting an eGrading certificate is the smart way for sellers to get a true valuation, and for shoppers to know what it is that they’re buying.