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Digging for Diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas (afar.com)
104 points by axiomdata316 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

Just as an aside, growing up in Texas I internalized a dim view of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma primarily due to cultural reasons. A few years ago my family and I took a vacation to a cabin in the Ouachita Mountains which is just north of this state park and I couldn't believe how beautiful that country is. The Ozarks are the crown jewel of that region but the Ouachita range from western AR to eastern OK is absolutely stunning in its own right. It reminds me of the times I've been to West Virginia, beautiful and remote and, in some ways (good and bad), apart from time and, for me, unfairly written off by my own biases. I felt a little pang of regret that I had lived for so long only 4-5 hours from such a beautiful place and was just only now discovering it.

Just FYI our state abbreviation is AR, AK is Alaska. It gets mistaken a lot hahaha

For added confusion, it is also the country code of Argentina.

Thank you, corrected!

The Ouachita Trail is an absolute treasure for backpacking, too. 200+ miles of uncrowded trails with well-maintained AT-style shelters along most of the way.

Apparently you're not too keen on keeping it that way...

[citation needed]

The implication seems to be that by advocating for the trail, the commenter is encouraging others to hike it, crowding the trails. Which echoes a sentiment I've heard from others too; the more people who hike a trail the worse it gets, from overcrowding and overuse.

the implication... without backing evidence.

Plenty of routes to responsible use - and there needs to be evidence to back accusations: especially against an individual who's presumably done nothing wrong.

I know exactly what you mean! I went to HS in north Texas (currently live in DFW) and not once did my family ever consider SE Oklahoma a camping destination. By chance my wife went to a yoga retreat in Broken Bow and was so impressed she forced my to make the drive and we explored the whole area. It’s a hidden gem that many Texans never realized existed because Oklahoma. Earlier this year we bought 20 acres just outside the national forest (2 acres separate us from a trailhead) and plan to build a cabin soon.

Yep we basically have the same story. I don't live in that part of the country anymore but if I did I would absolutely own land up there. Congrats on the new place.

Yeah, the Ozarks are completely unexpected. I went to Springfield, MS for an internship and the landscape is unbelievable. Beautiful rolling green hills. Before I had thought Nebraska was the entire Midwest.

Apparently there is a goods-sized National Battlefield nearby, Wilson's Creek. I've never heard of it and didn't realize there were any Civil War battlefields in Missouri.

Believe it or not, just because mainstream media likes to paint most of the conservative parts of the US as evil places of hate, they very much are not. They just tend to be poorer/not as industrialized.

This seems to be an unnecessary political diatribe that has no relevance to the parent comment.

The entire first sentence of the parent comment is alluding to the cultural (read: political) state of the area, in their opinion. People are allowed to respond to that.

That only works if you read the comment to be meaning that people in Texas - Texas, mind - consider 'conservative states' as being 'evil places of hate'.

I think that the 'cultural reasons' they're referring to are probably more likely to be stereotypes around those areas being home to backwards inbred hill people who marry each other's cousins at gunpoint, have two teeth remaining, use outhouses, etc, etc.

Every group needs some other group to look down on, I guess.

Well we're both assuming the intent of the OP, so there's really no winning this argument on either side.

To elaborate, my views of OK and AR were a sort of common Texas view that it's a backwoods and backwards place. Just sort of run down and no reason to go there. Obviously I am wrong.

This certainly isn't about politics as, well, there pretty much isn't a more conservative place than where I come from. It didn't occur to me that someone would inject left/right politics into my comment, but I guess that's just the way things are now.

I don’t consider culture == politics

There many videos on Youtube by hobbiests who frequent the park. It is back breaking work. The park rangers rightly prevent any modern, or even hobbiest, mining automation.

> was encouraged to keep the stone in its rough form—no polishing, no cutting. “It’s a beautiful chocolate diamond,” Kinard says. “It’s a nine-carat diamond. Those are very rare, and very hard to come by.

It might not be worth very much. Diamonds are not rare, are not particularly beautiful when uncut. The valuable diamonds are the diamonds that can be cut to produce a flawless gem.

There are _a lot_ of places in Australia that are the same but with gold.

You can pretty much drive an hour of out Sydney or Melbourne to some rivers and turn the soil and make up to minimum wage extracting river gold, but you can't run a motor doing it or use any equipment that is larger than what you can carry.

A lot of independent mining is like that - it's borderline low wage work but with the promise of a lotto ticket sprinkled in to keep you working.

For a second I thought you were describing Silicon Valley and startup equity.

A close friend has been doing wet sifting at Crater of Diamonds for years. Low wage work with the promise of a lotto ticket sprinkled in is exactly how I would describe it. This article felt like a very long ad.

I’ve also heard that if you’re good enough at poker you can grind away and make minimum wage at casinos in Vegas.

I'd guess that's probable. Limit Hold-em is pretty mechanistic. If you play perfectly, it's pretty likely that other people at your table won't, so you'll probably turn a profit over time. The only loss is the house rake, which wasn't that much last time I played.

> The valuable diamonds are the diamonds that can be cut to produce a flawless gem.

Though note that those aren't rare either. A diamond has no resale value; jewelers already have all the diamonds they're allowed to sell.

Relative of retired jewelry store owner here: The idea of Jewelry having any type of considerable value has got to be the biggest snow job scam ever played on the middle class throughout all history. Jewelry has absolutely no utility value at all except to impress people who are easily fooled. All gemstones of any known utility can be created cheaply and flawlessly in a laboratory. If you are considering 1-5k on a wedding ring and you have less than $5 million in the bank, you might as well start opening those Nigerian prince emails and pass some donations that way too because the result is the same and the Nigerian scammers probably need it more than the jewelry store owners. If your potential significant other is angry at you for not buying an expensive wedding ring, run away. They have some core judgement issues or they place 0 value on the effort it takes you to make the money needed to buy that ring.

> they place 0 value on the effort it takes you to make the money needed to buy that ring.

Very well said. I grew up in a middle-middle class family in India, and my Mom would not have let my Dad buy her any jewellery with his hard earned money.

On the other hand my father let my Mom buy a few grams of gold every few months. It was a good decision in hindsight considering how much it grew over the past few decades. My Mom's gold came to rescue when my family was in financial distress.

I don’t know what the logistics are of wherever and whenever you grew up, but I would expect a slew of better diversification options for anyone in the developed world in the form of low cost index etfs.

Gold’s performance has been quite subpar for the past few decades.

There is some amount of value in the custom made stuff (as in your own design/idea). It is hard and skilled work to craft metal so fine. But otherwise agreed. The culture of absurd spending for marriage needs to end as well. That money could go towards a house which will provide a lot more happiness in your life.

I like that the "Esperanza" diamond is supposed to have a price of $1M, or even more, and if you follow the rabbit hole the owners have been trying to sell the stone since 2015 to no avail (https://gemblog.igi.org/the-esperanza-diamond-is-still-for-s...). They even plugged in a saffire in...

The more you read about diamonds, the more they sound like a scam to sell overpriced wedding rings.

> The more you read about diamonds, the more they sound like a scam to sell overpriced wedding rings.

That is because they are. There are much better ways to signal whatever people used to signal by buying diamonds, at least on the higher end of the wealth scale. Not least because you can just get a synthetic diamond and no one can tell the difference, so now they try to sell “stories” behind it to create artificial scarcity.

I read once that a (cheap) cubic zirconia is difficult to tell apart from a diamond, unless you have a sharp eye and know exactly what you are looking for: if you propose with a zirconia, your wife will not notice unless she tries to sell the thing. Diamond sellers would tell you otherwise, telling that "zirconia has no fire inside", while others say exactly the opposite.

As fishy as all of that market smells, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of diamond buyers are getting CZ or moissanites for their money.

In what I must assume is a case of unintentional candor, the pendant it’s mounted on is shaped like a bear trap!

(See the meaning of “bear trap” in both the hunting and financial sense)

You can't resell diamonds at retail price of course, but diamonds are in fact priced by the market at wholesale. The DeBeers monopoly, if there ever was one, is decades old.

Source: Worked at a diamond wholesaler for years, sat next to the owner as he bought, measured, evaluated diamonds.

It's funny that the narrative for years was "DeBeers cornered the market to create fictional high prices." I believed it myself. Most right-thinking people outside the diamond industry did.

With Russian and Canadian mines coming online over the past two decades it's become clear that they cornered the market to keep prices stable. Volatility has gone through the roof but diamonds haven't become genuinely cheap.

In retrospect this should have been obvious. Cornering the market completely for 80 years would have been impossible if diamonds weren't still pretty rare.

It makes me wonder what other myths I have kicking around my head.

Yeah, its in one sense true - diamonds are common, there's no shortage of diamonds for drill bits, etc. But gem grade diamonds are rare, especially big ones.

I often wanted to go do this as a child growing up in Arkansas.

In hindsight, each time I would bring it up my parents would have something of an "oh shit, anything but that!" reaction and would quickly distract me with some other activity or suggestion, and to date I've never been.

I'm certain that to them, the suggestion was essentially to drive several hours out and back to play in the dirt.

(this article is well-written and quite interesting, btw)

I grew up in Indiana, and went with a friend on a road trip back in the 1980s. I remember it as a hot dusty field where you dig with your friends, all get tired, and end up buying some quartz crystals at a rock shop on the way home.

I grew up in Arkansas too. I've went digging twice. Once as a kid and again in my early 20s. Funny enough I woke up with horrible back pain the second time and was basically worthless the whole day. My wife hated the whole ordeal so we've not been back.

> I grew up in Arkansas too

There are dozens of us!

I'm pleasantly surprised to see four of us in one HN thread. I'm moving back this fall (been career building for the past 7 years out of state).

Arkansas is covered in pretty rocks.

Went when I was pretty young. I remember finding tiny pieces of glass on the ground that we took to get inspected to find out that it was, in fact, glass and not diamond.

Ha, when I was 9 or 10 I took some coal to a jeweler because I was convinced it was some exotic and valuable stone. I still have no idea what I was thinking.

Went there for a school field trip around the age of green. They did you a favor, I hated it then!

Visitation numbers from the article:

"Despite the challenges and restrictions of the COVID pandemic, 129,218 people traveled to Crater of Diamonds in 2020 for what was a record-breaking year, with more than 80 carats of diamonds unearthed"

At $10 a visit the entrance fees add up to a lot more than the value of diamonds found. Kind of like a lottery, but more interactive.

Awfully close to the old saying “during a gold rush, sell shovels”

This citation the first Google hit: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19018438

$1.3m is not a large budget for an operation supporting ~350 people/day.

Yes but that is only the door charge. If you want tools, that's extra. And water is $3 dollars. And that piece of quartz is $9 at the gift shop, etc

I am from Arkansas and have been here many times. As a little boy who liked to dig, it's great fun.

However, I highly recommend to anyone to instead check out the nearby dig-your-own quartz crystal mines in the town of Mount Ida. You are pretty much 100% guaranteed to find some decent sized quartz, whereas finding a diamond in Crater of Diamonds is much, much more rare.

Nice. I've always wanted to go to Crater of Diamonds, not so much to actually find a diamond as much as I just like the process of finding things like that. Kind of like looking for agates on Lake Superior's North Shore. Finding crystals is just as good in my book, might have to give that a shot.

Thank you for this comment, I think I will try that. My girlfriend is a huge fan of gems and rocks and she would love this.

Any recommendation of Avant versus Wegner?

A close friend of mine worked at Wegners and highly recommends them. You might also try Ron Coleman’s in the Hot Springs Village/Jessieville area.

Mica peridotites, the same rocks as occur in some of the diamond pipes of South Africa, can be found in kimberlite dikes in upstate New York. If you take the trail up Cascadilla Gorge on the south side of the Cornell campus in Ithaca, you can see one of these, intruded into the Devonian sedimentary rocks. No diamonds have ever been found in these dikes, but maybe you could be first! Be sure to get permission before breaking out your rock hammer.


In the summer I have been there and it is miserable. You are standing in dirt in the heat... in the open. And I never found anything.

But it is an interesting place. There is a moment when I looked up and stared at the dirt field and thought. There is a volcano underneath us... I am standing in a crater.

It is fun but work.

There is a similar operation in New York, in the Herkimer Diamond mines, spend $12-15 and they give you a hammer, you go out into the rocky pits and hit some rocks and find some (almost worthless) diamonds. Fun enough as a kid.

The so-called "Herkimer Diamonds" are actually quartz crystals.

Went with kids not long ago. They enjoyed it for several hours. It was hard work - you dig, then slug your dirt up to a trough where you sift it. You can also just walk and look for shiny things. Lots of tips on YouTube, but we never found any.

no gold or diamonds in my childhood, amber did the trick though. From dirt cheap to mildly expensive, yet you'll never leave empty. Some people do it as business, some just as occasional hobby. It seems that any meaningful private commercial operation of digging, selling and jewelry producing is still mostly illegal today as it was back then in USSR, yet it have been a pretty booming business in Russia and Ukraine (and probably Poland, though can't say anything about amber legal regime there). Today's "Amber rush" in Ukraine https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-21/illegal-amber-mining-...

Few hours drive from me. Staff was friendly. I didn't find anything with about a two hour search, but it was fun.

While you're in Arkansas, rent a mountain bike near Eureka Springs or Bentonville and go shredding.

Three of those and two sticks and you can make a pickax.

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