On July 16th, a record-breaking storm pummeled Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Ark., with more than a foot of rain. Eight days later, Josh Lanik, a 36 year old schoolteacher from Hebron, Neb., discovered a 2.12-carat brandy-colored diamond near the southwest edge of the park’s 37.5-acre diamond search area. About the size of a jelly bean, it stands as the largest diamond discovered at the park in 2019.
Park Interpreter Waymon Cox said that it was not a coincidence that the year's biggest find connected so closely with the monster storm.
“About 14 inches of rain fell at the park on July 16," he said. "In the days after the rainfall, park staff registered numerous diamonds found right on the surface of the search area, including two weighing over one carat.”
Cox explained that park personnel plow the diamond search area — the eroded surface of an ancient, diamond-bearing volcanic crater — periodically to loosen soil and assist with natural erosion. Diamonds are a bit heavy for their size and lack static electricity, so dirt doesn’t stick to them. When rainfall uncovers larger diamonds and the sun comes out, they sparkle and are often easy to see.
“About one out of every 10 diamonds registered by park visitors is found on top of the ground, including many of the largest ever found at the Crater of Diamonds,” he said.
A historical note about diamonds being discovered after storms. Diamonds were found in fields after thunderstorms had moved through an area of central India. The locals believed that the diamonds were formed by lightning strikes hitting the ground, and were therefore considered to be a gift from the gods. It was unknown to these early diamond gatherers that they actually lived over a colluvial deposit of diamonds, which is a deposit close to a diamond pipe where the diamonds were being re-deposited by wind and rain. When thunderstorms moved across the area, the rain would wash away a layer of the top soil thereby exposing the diamonds contained in the ground deposits. As these thunderstorms produced a lot of lightning strikes, it was therefore assumed that these lightning strikes actually created the diamonds.
Lanik noted that he and his family were searching for amethysts near a section of the park called Canary Hill when something unusual caught his eye.
“It was blatantly obvious there was something different about it," he said. "I saw the shine, and when I picked it up and rolled it in my hand, I noticed there weren’t any sharp edges.”
Lanik showed the gem to his wife, who was searching nearby, and dropped it into a brown paper sack with several other rocks and minerals.
Before leaving the park, the family stopped by the Diamond Discovery Center to have their finds identified. Lanik said that when he poured the contents of the paper sack onto the counter, a park employee put his brown gem into a pill bottle and took it into the office for a closer look.
He noted, “She wouldn’t tell us whether it was a diamond, but we were pretty sure from her reaction that it was.”
After identifying and weighing the gem, park staff brought Lanik into the office and informed him that he had discovered the park's largest diamond of 2019. Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond source in the world where amateur prospectors get to keep what they find. Lanik's diamond was the 296th registered at the park this year.
Lanik named his gem the Lanik Family Diamond and told The Washington Post that he plans to put the diamond into a ring for his wife to wear and eventually pass down to their sons, now 6 and 8 years old. To show the relative size of Lanik's find, the park staff took a snapshot of it next to an Arkansas state quarter — which prominently features a diamond in its design.
In total, more than 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at the Crater of Diamonds since the first diamonds were discovered in 1906 by John Huddleston, a farmer who owned the land long before it became an Arkansas State Park in 1972. The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats.
Credits: Images courtesy of Crater of Diamonds State Park. Arkansas quarter, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.