Last updateTue, 19 Jun 2018 9pm

Wisconsin Wells


History has a way of repeating itself. Back in 1876, workers digging a well in Eagle, WI discovered a 14-carat diamond. The find came to be known as the Eagle Diamond, which changed hands many times until it was stolen from the American Museum of Natural History in 1964. Its whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.

Fast-forward to 2012 and a much smaller, but perhaps now equally famous, diamond was discovered the same way in the Badger State by Dan Fagnan. A CNC (Computer Numeric Controls) milling machine operator by trade, Dan began panning for gold this summer as a part-time hobby.

Wisc“It’s better than sitting around watching TV,” says Dan. In the first few months with his new pastime Dan discovered only a few shiny flakes of gold that didn’t amount to much. On September 14, all that changed. 

In mid-September Dan was helping a friend with a home project. Dan asked jokingly if he could pan through the large pile of bedrock that was piled up from a recently-drilled 120-foot well. The friend obliged, and Dan grabbed his pan from the truck parked in the driveway and he got to work on the massive pile of bedrock. Two hours later he discovered a lumpy transparent rock that he originally thought to be glass.

Curious to determine exactly what he had found in his friend’s backyard, Dan took the find to Karen Greaton, owner of Greaton’s Designing Jewelers in New Richmond, WI.

“At first I thought it would be very unlikely to be a diamond because Wisconsin isn’t known for them,” says Karen. “A notable diamond find hasn’t happened in Wisconsin since the late 1800s.”

Upon examination, Karen discovered black inclusions in the rough using her store’s Jewel Scope. This was good news for Dan as such inclusions are often found in natural diamonds.

Karen then used a thermal diamond tester. And, much to her surprise, “it read diamond.” Karen also used a handy Moisssanite tester. “Meteorites fall from the sky all the time, why wouldn’t they fall on Wisconsin,” says Karen. 

And, as Karen had suspected, it wasn’t Moisssanite. To be absolutely sure about her gemological reviews, Karen took Dan’s rough to the Twin Cities in late September. She was going to hear a mineralogist from GIA speak at an industry event and would welcome her opinion. 

“She also determined that it was in fact diamond,” says Karen.

Now that Dan and Karen knew that the lumpy transparent rough was in fact diamond, the next big question was what to do with it. Although a significant find, especially in Wisconsin, it was still a very small piece of diamond rough.

“At 1.22 carats, if you factor in the average weight loss when cutting a diamond rough, the resulting cut and polished diamond might yield a half-carat stone at best,” says Karen. 

Wisc-pend-DecAfter much discussion with Dan and his fiancée, they decided to not cut the rough. This severely limited custom jewelry options. But Karen harkened back to the 1960s “pearl cage” pendant trend.

“I liked the idea and it seemed to make the best sense,” says Dan. “And, it’s a white gold cage pendant that will only cost me about $150.”

While the pendant was being crafted, Karen decided to contact her friend Jeff Holmquist, managing editor of the New Richmond News. The diamond find was of mild historical interest compared to the Eagle Diamond of well-digging past, but Dan’s tale had a good human interest story angle.

In addition to optimism associated with a gold mining hobby that will most likely yield little in his lifetime, Dan is soon to be married. And, the couple is expecting their first child - a girl - with a due date of January 2. The soon-to-be-married couple decided to have the diamond rough cage pendant made for their soon-to-be-born daughter.  

Jeff wrote up Dan’s discovery and his family’s story. When the article was published it quickly caught on like wild fire. “Major news organizations from across the country contacted us about the diamond find and the pendant design,” says Karen. “I was blown away by the media attention.” 

Wisc-rough-DecThe diamond rough cage pendant was presented to Dan and his fiancée in late October. Karen suggested that the couple give it to their daughter as a Baptism gift in 2013. 

“I’d suggest the daughter start wearing it as soon as possible,” says Karen. “Put the cage pendant on a 12- to 13-inch chain and you’re good to go.”

Unlike the Eagle Diamond, Dan’s Wisconsin diamond find most likely won’t change any hands, with the exception of daughter to mother. And, like most jewelry, there will be an incredible story to tell each time it’s worn.