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Keep What You Find at the Crater of Diamonds Park

Each year thousands of visitors go to a small town in rural Arkansas in search of diamonds. The Crater Diamonds Park claims that it is the world's only diamond site where you can search and keep what you find. For producer Yi Suli, Elaine Lu has the story.

Murfreesboro is known for its diamonds. Visitors, such as the Hermansons, come all the way from West Virginia, to the one-of-a-kind diamond park in town. Thomas Stolartz, a superintendent at the park knows why.

"That's the neat thing here. They [the diamonds] are actually here. There is actually treasure here. And actually you can look for it. If you find it, it is yours to keep."

Stolartz says for just $6, visitor can spend a whole day at the park to search and dig diamonds. "The search area is about 37.5 acres (15 hectares) in size so there is plenty of room for everyone."

Diamonds are formed deep within the earth where heat and pressure create the necessary condition for carbon atoms to bond tightly. According to scientists, a volcanic eruption at Crater of Diamonds location 100 million years ago brought the diamonds to the earth's surface.

Since the first diamond was found at the Crater of Diamonds in 1906, the park had several different owners until the midwestern state of Arkansas made it a state park in 1972.

Thomas Stolartz says the largest diamond ever found in North America was unearthed here. "Over my right shoulder is the approximate location of where the ‘Uncle Sam’ diamond was found back in 1924."

Other famous finds include the 15.33-carat "Star of Arkansas," and the 16.37-carat "Amarillo Starlight," the largest diamond ever found by a park visitor.

Thomas Stolartz says there are good years and so-so years for diamond diggers. "Yes, it does fluctuate. I have seen as low as 400 diamonds in a year's time and as high as 1500 diamonds in a year. On average there is probably somewhere between 500 and 600 of diamonds [found]."

Stolartz says the park receives about 50,000 visitors from all over the country each year - all come with the same goal. Visitors say they come to look or hunt for diamonds.

Park staffer Rachel Engebrecht briefs visitors on the proper way to screen diamonds. “I'm going to demonstrate the sleuthing. I recommend using a double screen set. And we do rent out double screen sets back at the Diamond Discovery Center. Looking for dirt that looks like it has a lot of rocks and gravels in it. It doesn't guarantee you will find a diamond in that dirt. But it improves your odds a little bit.”

The park's staff helps visitor to identify and certify diamonds. Most of the time, however, diamonds found are too small to cut. But the enthusiasm of most visitors is not dampened by the low possibility of finding a gem-quality diamond.

One woman said she would be happy if she found something, while a man visiting the park said it’s not his goal.

Anne Townsend, a visitor, says it can be a fun way to get dirty. "It is legitimate excuse to get muddy. Nobody cares if you are dirty here."

Having been prospecting at the park for 20 years, and garnered 500 diamonds, Shirley Strawn is a serious diamond searcher. She discovered the widely publicized 1.09-carat D-flawless "Strawn-Wagner Diamond" in 1990, a white gem that weighed 3.03 carats in the rough before it was cut. "It is perfect in the cut, color and clarity,” she says. “It's on permanent display out here in Crater of Diamonds. This is exactly where I want it to be. I'm proud for many things but this sign was just the crowning moment."

Strawn is expecting to find even more valuable diamonds. "And I feel like there is one bigger than ‘Uncle Sam.’ I will be proud to be the one that finds it."