Historical Reading: Diamonds in Arkansas
In early August 1906 two glittering pebbles were picked up on a farm near Prairie Creek in Pike County, Arkansas. Experts in Little Rock and New York City recognized them as diamonds. The location where they were found is an eroded volcanic “diamond” pipe. Initially mined on a limited basis intermittently over a period of nearly 30 years, the area later became open to the public and was designated a state park in 1972. For a small fee, visitors could hunt for diamonds and other minerals and keep whatever they found.
How to Use this Reading List
This reading list was compiled to give you an opportunity to learn more about this unusual geologic occurrence and some of the properties of the interesting gem-quality diamonds found in Arkansas. A number of the articles were published in the 1800s and early 1900s – when many classical gem deposits of historical importance were discovered – and gemology and mineralogy became sciences. The list is presented in chronological order to emphasize the development of ideas over time. The list is not comprehensive, but a compilation of the some interesting gemological information that has often been forgotten or overlooked.
Many of the articles exist in the public domain and can be found online at digital libraries such as Hathitrust, Internet Archive, or other digital repositories. More recent publications can often be found in libraries, including the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library. Abstracts of these articles can usually be found on the website of the original journal or magazine, and the article itself is often available for purchase from the publisher.
Regarding the GIA library’s holdings and on-site access, please contact the GIA library in Carlsbad.
The Peridotite of Pike County, Arkansas, J.C. Branner and R.N. Brackett, American Journal of Science, Vol. 38, No. 223, pp. 50-59, (1889). The first geologic description of the vertical pipe of an unusual, decomposed, igneous rock (described as a peridotite) that was subsequently found several years later to contain diamonds.
The Occurrence of Diamonds in Arkansas, G.F. Kunz and H.S. Washington, Scientific American Supplement, Vol. 64, No. 1657, pp. 211-212, (1907). A brief description of the occurrence, with a mention of a diamond crystal having been found embedded in the peridotite, which was considered proof that this was a diamond-bearing igneous rock. To date, some 130 diamonds crystals had reportedly been found at the site, the largest at 6.5 carats.
Note on the Forms of Arkansas Diamonds, G.F. Kunz and H.S. Washington, American Journal of Science, Vol. 24, No. 141, pp. 275-276, (1907). A description of the shapes, sizes and colors of the 140 diamonds found to date at the occurrence.
Has Arkansas a Diamond "Field”?, R.S. Lanier, American Review of Reviews, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 301-303, (1907). A discussion of the Arkansas location where diamond crystals were found embedded in the igneous host rock, a situation similar to that seen in the diamond deposits in South Africa, and the possibility of a “diamond field” occurring in North America.
A Preliminary Report on the Arkansas Diamond Field, P.F. Schneider, Arkansas Bureau of Mines, Manufacturers and Agriculture, pp. 5-16, (1907). A report prepared for the state of Arkansas on the diamond occurrence, including a geologic description of the site and the peridotite host rock, as well as comments on how the diamonds are recovered and the number found. The report concludes with a summary of the evidence that this is a genuine primary diamond occurrence.
Peridotite of the Arkansas Diamond Field, G.F. Kunz, Pacific Miner, Vol. 12, (May), pp. 176-177, (1908). A comparison is made to show the similarities between the diamond-bearing peridotite in Arkansas and the diamondiferous kimberlite in South Africa.
Diamonds in Arkansas, G.F. Kunz and H.S. Washington, Bi-Monthly Bulletin of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Vol. 20, (March), pp. 187-194, (1908). A description of the geology of the occurrence and a discussion of the potential of the deposit to be an economic diamond mine. The same report appeared in 1909 in the Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Vol. 39, pp. 169-176.
A New Discovery of Peridotite in Arkansas, A.H. Purdue, Economic Geology, Vol. 3, No. 6, pp. 525-528, (1908). The discovery of a second outcrop of peridotite, located 2.5 miles from the original site, and both possibly related to the same igneous dike system.
Diamonds in Arkansas: A brief account of the discovery and investigation and official reports of the geologist and mining engineer on the occurrence in Pike Co[unty], Ark[ansas], S.W. Reyburn, C.S. Stifft and A.D. Cohn, Arkansas Diamond Company, 38 pp., (1908). A report describing the occurrence commissioned, by the company that was attempting to mine the diamonds on a commercial basis.
Diamond Mine in Pike County, Arkansas, J.T. Fuller, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3, pp. 152-155, (1909). A more detailed description of the occurrence and the operations set up by a company to mine diamonds at the site. A total of 540 diamonds had been found to date at the site, and the article includes a list of the weights and colors of the first 75 diamonds recovered.
Diamond Mines of Arkansas, J.L. Cowan, Mining and Scientific Press, Vol. 101, No. 2611, pp. 178-179, (1910). A discussion of the similarities of the Arkansas locality with those in South Africa, in terms of the geology the deposits and the quality and quantity of the diamonds recovered.
The Arkansas Diamond Fields in 1909, J.T. Fuller, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 89, No. 15, pp. 767-768, (1910). A report on the diamond mining progress of four different companies working in different areas of the occurrence.
Those Arkansas Diamonds, H.F. Kohr, Technical World Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 288-292, (1910). A historical account of the discovery and development of the occurrence.
Contributions to Economic Geology: New areas of diamond-bearing peridotite in Arkansas, H.D. Miser, Bulletin of the United States Geological Survey, No. 540, pp. 534-546, (1914). A detailed geological description of the diamondiferous peridotite bodies found in the area of the original occurrence.
Diamonds in Arkansas, S.W. Reyburn and S.H. Zimmerman, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 109, No. 17, pp. 983-986, (1920). Description of a plant being constructed on site to process large volumes of kimberlite ore in order to determine if the diamonds occur in commercial quantities, and details of the steps required to isolate the diamonds from the ore (written by the management of the company mining the property).
Diamond-bearing Peridotite in Pike County, Arkansas, H.D. Miser and C.S. Ross, United States Geological Survey - Bulletin, 735-H and 735-I, pp. 271-278 and 279-322, (1923). Report of a detailed field study of the geologic setting of the diamond-bearing peridotite. A summary version of this report appeared in Economic Geology, Vol. 17, No. 8, pp. 662-674, (1922).
Diamond Deposits in Arkansas, G.J. Mitchell, Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 116, No. 7, pp. 285-287, (1923), publication not seen.
Arkansas Diamond Mine, W.J. Samson, The Gemmologist, Vol. 17, No. 200, pp. 58-65, (1948). A description of the mine and of some of the diamonds found.
Investigation of the Prairie Creek Diamond Area, Pike County, Arkansas, J.R. Thoenen, R.S. Hill, E.G. Howe, and S.M. Runke, U.S. Bureau of Mines - Report of Investigation, No. 4549, 24 pp., (1949). A geological field study with a description of the diamond-bearing peridotite.
Diamond Mines of Arkansas, D.L. Howard, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 253-254, (1951), publication not seen.
Diamond Mining in Arkansas, J.R. Burgoon, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 8, No. 12, pp. 355-362, (1956). A description of the diamond mining operations. The site opened to the public on a paid-fee basis in 1956.
Arkansas Diamonds, H. Leiper, Journal of Gemmology, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 63-71, (1957). A description of some of the diamonds found in Arkansas.
Diamonds for the Finding!, H. Leiper, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 4-12, (1957). Description of hunting for diamonds at the site in Arkansas.
Highlights from the Gem Trade Lab in New York: 6.43 ct. Diamond [from Arkansas], G.R. Crowningshield, Gems & Gemology, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 7-8, (1960). A brief description of an Arkansas diamond submitted to the GIA Laboratory for examination.
Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of America's Only Diamond-bearing Peridotite Pipe, H. Leiper, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp. 714-718 and 722-733, (1966). Interesting historical account of the Arkansas diamond mine, with descriptions of a number of the larger diamonds found there and the individuals who discovered them.
Diamond Hunting Murfreesboro, Arkansas, J.M. Towner, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 26, No. 9, pp. 1268-1276, (1972). Discussion of hunting for diamonds on the site of the peridotite occurrence.
Chemical Data on a Colorless Arkansas Diamond and its Black Amorphous C-Fe-Ni-S Inclusion, American Mineralogist, Vol. 60, No. 9/10, pp. 934-936, (1975). The Nature of Cloud-like Inclusions in Two Arkansas Diamonds, , American Mineralogist, Vol. 60, No. 9/10, pp. 931-933, (1975), both by A.A. Giardini and C.E. Melton. Brief summaries of two scientific studies of interesting inclusions in Arkansas diamonds.
Experimental Results and a Theoretical Interpretation of Gaseous Inclusions Found in Arkansas Natural Diamonds, C.E. Melton and A.A. Giardini, American Mineralogist, Vol. 60, No. 5/6, pp. 413-417 (1975).
Experimental Evidence that Oxygen is the Principal Impurity in Natural Diamonds, C.E. Melton and A.A. Giardini, Nature Magazine, Vol. 263, No. 5575, pp. 309-310, (1976). The results of two studies of the gases contained in tiny inclusion cavities in Arkansas diamonds.
Mineral Inclusions in an Arkansas Diamond, M.G. Newton, C.E. Melton, and A.A. Giardini, American Mineralogist, Vol. 62, No. 5/6, pp. 583-586, (1977). Results of another scientific study of solid mineral inclusions in Arkansas diamonds.
"Crater of Diamonds," A Short History: 1906 to 1978, L.M. Morrison, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 32, No. 5, pp. 1065-1068, 1070, and 1072, (1978). Account of the history of the “Crater of Diamonds,” and information on how to visit the site to hunt for diamonds.
Mineral Inclusions in Four Arkansas Diamonds: Their Nature and Significance, N.S. Pantaleo, M.G. Newton, S.V. Gogineni, C.E. Melton, and A.A. Giardini, American Mineralogist, Vol. 64, No. 9/10, pp. 1059-1062, (1979). Results of another scientific study of solid mineral inclusions in Arkansas diamonds.
Famous Mineral Localities: Murfreesboro, Arkansas, A.L. Kidwell, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 21, No. 6, pp. 545-555, (1990). A detailed account of the history of the Arkansas diamond mine, including early photographs and information on the diamonds found.
Diamonds and Their Mineral Inclusions from the Prairie Creek Intrusives, Arkansas, C.L. Chan, New Diamond Science and Technology, pp. 193-197, (1991). Results of the scientific study of solid mineral inclusions in Arkansas diamonds.
Combing the Crater - Digging for Diamonds in Arkansas's Crater of Diamonds State Park, P. Selbert, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 46, No. 8, pp. 53-54, 84, 86, 88, 90 and 92, (1992). A popular account of visiting the site and hunting diamonds, with a mention that 11,000 diamonds had been found since the location was opened to the public in 1956.
Arkansas - The Hot Spot in U.S. Prospecting, Author unknown, Diamond World Review, No. 77, pp. 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 92 and 94, (1993). A discussion of the dispute between environmentalists and business interests to further develop the site.
Crater of Diamonds - Visit this Arkansas State Park, and Keep all the Diamonds You Find!, R.R. Reneau, Rock & Gem Magazine, Vol. 23, No. 6, pp. 14-16, (1993). A short, popular description of the site, with a mention that 70,000 diamonds had been found to date, including the 40.23 carat (ct.) “Uncle Sam” diamond.
Summary of the 1990s Exploration and Testing of the Prairie Creek Diamond-bearing Lamproite Complex, Pike County, Arkansas, J.M. Howard, Oklahoma Geological Survey - Circular, No. 102, pp. 97-104, (1999). A report of the field study to core drill the volcanic pipe, described more accurately as a lamproite, to ascertain the out-dimensions of the geologic formation.
Diamonds in the Rough - Excitement at the Crater of Diamonds, J. Monaco, Rock & Gem Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 32-34, 82-83, (1999). Description of a visit to the site to hunt diamonds.
Diamond Economics of the Prairie Creek Lamproite, Murfreesboro, AR, USA, D.P. Dunn, Ore Geology Reviews, Vol. 22, No. 3/4, pp. 251-262 (2003). A geologic description of the lamproite pipes on the site, with an analysis of how many diamonds might be recoverable during further exploration efforts.
The Arkansas Diamond Rush Continues!, J. Houran, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 37, No. 6, pp. 505-510, (2006). A description of recent activities at the Crater of Diamonds state park.
Finding Diamonds in Arkansas!, J.M. Howard, Arkansas Geology Education Series Brochure Series, No. 2, pp. 1-8, (2007). A popular description of the state park, including the geology of the occurrence, tips on hunting for diamonds and annual statistics on the approximately 25,800 diamonds found between 1972 and 2006.
The Jewel Gem - Rediscovery of a Historic Arkansas Diamond, J. Houran, Rocks and Minerals Magazine, Vol. 83, No. 6, pp. 502-507, (2008). A discussion of some of the famous diamonds found at the site and what happened to them.
Geology of the Crater of Diamonds State Park and Vicinity, Pike County, Arkansas, J.M. Howard and W.D. Hanson, Arkansas Geological Survey, State Park Series, No. 3, 14 pp., (2008). A description of the state park and the diamond occurrence.
The Fastest Diamond Finds in Arkansas: Some people make it look so easy, G.W. Worthington, Rock & Gem Magazine, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 26-29, (2011). An account of hunting diamonds with descriptions of some of the ones found recently.
Dr. James Shigley is a distinguished research fellow at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, California.