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Public invited to watch cutting of big Arkansas diamond


Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park at Murfreesboro offers a unique experience for visitors—the opportunity to search in the eroded surface of the eighth largest, diamond-bearing deposit in the world. And any diamonds or semi-precious stones found in that 37 1/2-acre plowed field of greenish brown dirt are theirs to keep. Each diamond is unique, as is each diamond finder’s story. Through a partnership between Stanley Jewelers Gemologist of North Little Rock and Embee Diamonds of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, the public is invited to watch as the story of the 8.52-carat white diamond found on June 24 by park visitor Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colorado, continues to unfold. Named the “Esperanza” for her niece and the Spanish word for “hope,” Oskarson’s high quality gem will be cut by master diamond cutter Mike Botha, president of Embee Diamonds, during a special in-store event at Stanley Jewelers Gemologists, Sept. 9-12. The store is located at 3422 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Hours for viewing the diamond’s cutting will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Laura Stanley, vice president of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, “Embee Diamond’s Mike Botha is a renowned diamond cutter who has worked with many large notable diamonds. As a member of the American Gem Society (AGS), he is looking forward to the opportunity to cut the ‘Esperanza,’ an American diamond of very high quality.” She continued, “This is a spectacular 8.52-carat rough stone, a colorless crystal of extremely high clarity. Embee Diamonds has announced that Mike will transform what nature formed into a 147-facet triolette shape of his own design. Resembling a teardrop, this custom cut will be a composite of emerald and trapezoid giving the gem much brilliance. We are hoping it will be five carats.”

Stanley noted that once the diamond has been cut and polished, it will go to the AGS Laboratories for a final grading report. Next it will be mounted in a custom-designed pendant created by award-winning, U.S. designer Erica Courtney of Los Angeles. “Every one of us involved in this diamond’s journey is an AGS member, and we all feel so honored to spend time with this spectacular American diamond that is receiving so much national and international attention,” she said.  The gem will be offered for sale this fall.

Mike Botha said, “It is an honor and a privilege to collaborate with Stanley Jewelers Gemologist on this Arkansas treasure. I’ve lost count of how many thousands of diamonds

I’ve crafted over the last 48 years, and the ‘Esperanza’ may not even rank among the largest, but it is an exceptional diamond. And to cut and polish her at home in The Natural State is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

According to Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts, “An important part of the Arkansas State Parks experience is making memories for our visitors. This diamond has already made so many special memories for Ms. Oskarson, the staff at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, members of the American Gem Society, and others who have spent time with this stone.” He continued, “Through the generosity of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist in North Little Rock and Embee Diamonds of Canada, we have all been invited to see this diamond, watch its cutting, and continue following its journey.” He emphasized, “The ‘Esperanza’ diamond is an Arkansas, American, and North American pride story. We thank Bobbie Oskarson, Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, and Mike Botha and Evert Botha of Embee Diamonds for allowing all of us to be part of this memory-making adventure.”

Clear white and icicle shaped, the “Esperanza” is the fifth largest diamond found by a park visitor since the state park was established at Arkansas’s diamond site in 1972. Now in the park’s record books, this 8.52-carat diamond is topped in size only by these previous four larger diamonds found by park visitors:  the white 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight found in 1975 by W.W. Johnson of Amarillo, Texas; white 8.82-carat Star of Shreveport found in 1981 by Carroll Blankenship of Shreveport, Louisiana; white 8.66-carat Illusion Diamond found in 2011 by Beth Gilbertson of Salida, Colorado; and brown 8.61-carat Lamle Diamond found in 1978 by Betty Lamle of Hitchcock, Oklahoma. [NOTE:  The largest diamond ever discovered in the U.S. was unearthed at Arkansas’s diamond site in 1924 during an early mining operation prior to its becoming an Arkansas state park in 1972. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. Another notable gem found at the site prior its becoming a state park was the 15.33-carat Star of Arkansas, a white diamond found in 1956 by Winifred Parker when the site was operated by Howard Millar as a privately-operated tourist attraction.]

Crater of Diamonds State Park Interpreter Waymon Cox said, “To our knowledge, no other diamond-producing site in the world offers the public the opportunity to search, as well as keep what is found, so we celebrate every visitor’s diamond find here at the park.” He emphasized, “However, most diamonds from the park are small and only about a quarter carat in size. But certainly large, notable diamonds have been unearthed here, too.  The ‘Esperanza’ and the ‘Strawn-Wagner Diamond,’ found in 1990 by Shirley Strawn of Murfreesboro, Arkansas, are among the stones that exemplify the high quality that certain stones from the Crater of Diamonds achieve.”

[SIDEBAR:  The Crater of Diamonds State Park staff plans to visit Stanley Jewelers Gemologists on Thursday, Sept. 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the cutting of “Esperanza.” They will bring the “Strawn-Wagner Diamond” from the park so that it can also be on view at Stanley that day. Originally weighing 3.03 carats in the rough, this splendid stone was cut to a 1.09-carat gem and graded D Flawless, 0/0/0 (“Triple 0”), the highest grade a diamond can achieve. A diamond this perfect is so rare that many gemologists and jewelers never see one. This is the most perfect diamond ever certified in the laboratory of the AGS. The state of Arkansas received private donations and grant funds to purchase “Strawn-Wagner Diamond” in 1999 so that this museum-quality, Arkansas treasure could be placed on permanent display at the Crater of Diamonds State Park where it was unearthed.]

Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Additional information about Arkansas’s diamond site can be found at CraterOfDiamondsStatePark.com and ArkansasStateParks.com.

To follow the journey of this diamond via Facebook, search for the “Historic Esperanza Diamond Cutting” event page or go to https://www.facebook.com/theesperanza. Use #esperanza.

For further information about the Crater of Diamonds State Park, contact:  Joan Ellison, public information coordinator, Arkansas State Parks, 1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201; phone: 501-682-2873; email:  joan.ellison@arkansas.gov.

(Photo and article courtesy of Arkansas State Parks)

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