A treasure trove of more than 300 minerals, the state of Arkansas tantalizes gemstone hunters. Over the course of millions of years, the natural elements have weathered the summit peaks of the Ouachita Mountains to expose its rock layers. The natural decay process has created a mecca for rock-hounding enthusiasts. The state holds the distinction of being home to the world's best quartz. It is also home to first diamond mine every discovered in the United States. Gemstone hunters can find coveted agates, slate, wavellite, pink dolomite and bauxite in the region.
In 1906, a farmer unearthed a diamond in his plowed field. The 37.5 acre area became the Crater of Diamonds State Park (craterofdiamondsstatepark.com). Within its boundaries, the two largest diamonds in the United State -- the Uncle Sam (40.23 carats rough) and the Star of Murfreesboro (34.25 carats rough) -- were discovered. The park offers visitors the opportunity to dig for diamonds of all colors. Gemstone enthusiasts receive the benefit of not only finding a treasured stones but also keeping them. For a nominal fee, diggers can enjoy hunting and taking diamonds, semiprecious stones, rocks or minerals from the site.
Rock-hound enthusiasts from around the world flock each year to the Hot Springs and Mount Ida area to seek high-quality quartz. Throughout the region, mines exist that offer the opportunity to pursue the gemstones for a minimal fee. Finished gemstone stores also abound. In some regions, the gemstone hunter can find quartz scattered across the soils surface, but at other mines, the hunter must put a bit of effort into unearthing the stones. During the second week in October, Mount Ida hosts the annual World's Championship Quartz Crystal Dig. Competitors have one week to unearth local quartz crystals and submit them in the competition to win cash prizes and trophies.
Other Gemstone Collecting Sites
In northern Arkansas, gemstone hunters will find an abundance of pink dolomite. The Black Rock in Lawrence County has yielded truckloads of the substance, according to Rockhounding Arkansas. Access to the mines has become difficult because of insurance regulations placed on the mine's owners. Gemstone clubs often offer field trips to the mines. Underground zinc mines near Rush in Marion County still offer independent gemstone seekers the opportunity to hunt. Within Ouachita National Forest, gemstone seekers can find wavellite, also called cats eyes. North of Mount Ida sits the abandoned Montgomery County quarry. Hand collectors can seek the gemstones from the location. Planerite also exists on the site in limited quantities.
Preparing to Hunt
When gemstone hunting, pack an abundance of supplies to make the trip easy. Sieves, hammers, hardhats, buckets, chisels, gloves and boxes will help make the digging more productive. Also, consider packing a pry bar, garden trowel and shovel. A cushion or some kind of soft chair will help make hunting comfortable. A hand lens will enable the gemstone hunter to look closely at any small crystals to determine their worth and identify them. Always wear a hardhat, safety glasses and gloves when hunting for gemstones. Prior to going into any underground mining area in Arkansas, let someone know your exact location. Always talk to local and state authorities to verify any laws in the area that might affect gemstone hunting. Never hunt on private property without gaining the landowner's permission.
- Rockhounding Arkansas: The Formation of the Ouachita Mountains
- Crater of Diamond State Park: Digging for Diamonds
- Rockhounding Arkansas: Diamonds in Arkansas
- Arkansas the Natural State: Arkansas Diamond Mine
- Arkansas the Natural State: Quartz Crystals in Arkansas
- Rockhounding in Arkansas: Dolomite in Arkansas
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