Hailed as most valuable diamond ever found in U.S.
There are events that happen with such incredible timing and good fortune it almost seems like divine intervention is at work. Such is the case with the 8.52-carat Esperanza Diamond rough. From its serendipitous finding by a Colorado tourist at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas to the network of industry professionals that made it possible for this extraordinary diamond to return to Arkansas at Stanley Jewelers Gemologist where it was cut and polished during a world-first video stream event viewed by thousands on YouTube.
The story of this incredible diamond find begins in late June last year when Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colorado, and her boyfriend Travis Dillon found the Crater of Diamonds State Park on a travel map. For kicks they thought it would be fun to dig for diamonds. The couple set their sights on Pig Pen, a 37-acre terrain known to be a sloppy, muddy mess after a heavy rainfall.
The area was hit by unusually high amounts of rainfall last year. That coupled with routine plowings of the search fields certainly helped increase Bobbie’s chances of finding a diamond on that fateful late June day. Within 20 minutes of digging, Bobbie found what she thought was a large piece of quartz (it was later confirmed by a State Park official to be a diamond). At 8.52 carats, the size of the Esperanza Diamond (the Spanish word for hope and the name of Bobbie’s niece) rough made it the fifth largest diamond found in the State Park.
Esperanza may not be the biggest (that record goes to the 40.23-carat Uncle Sam Diamond discovered in the park in 1924), but what she lacks in size is more than made up for in color and clarity – D, internally flawless.
“In 47 years of cutting diamonds, this is the cleanest diamond I’ve ever seen,” says Mike Botha, a master diamond cutter at Embee Diamonds, who transformed Esperanza from an 8.52-carat piece of rough to a 4.61-carat triolette cut diamond.
Mike is no stranger to the Crater of Diamonds State Park. He has visited the park several times over the years, including a recent trip in 2014 with a busload of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist’s top customers for a “Diamond Dig” event. Throughout his near five-decade career as a diamond cutter, he has always marveled at this area’s incredible mineral wealth. Some dismiss the Crater of Diamonds State Park as a tourist trap for visitors and a magnet for get-rich-quick locals.
Historically, however, this Arkansas State Park has very serious mineral wealth that has a common geological history with none other than the Argyle Mines of Australia (owned by mining conglomerate Rio Tinto). Millions of years ago, ancient volcanic activity brought diamonds up from 90 to 120 miles below the Earth’s surface. This happened with two kinds of magma, kimberlite and lamproite.
These types of magma deposited diamonds all over the world (primarily in Southern Africa), especially with kimberlite deposits. But, there are only two places on the planet where significant lamproite diamond deposits are currently being mined. One is the commercial diamond mining at Argyle Diamond Mines in the remote northern portion of Western Australia and the other – you guessed it – recreational diamond digging at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in the southwestern corner of Arkansas.
In 1906 diamonds were first discovered at the State Park. Since then more than 75,000 diamonds have been found there. Bobbie’s Esperanza Diamond, its purity and its story, is certainly one for the history books with the final chapters still being written. The extraordinary diamond, now set in a floating platinum pendant and necklace design, is currently on tour across the country with hopes of finding a buyer soon.
“If we don’t have any offers that are satisfactory to the diamond’s investment board, we’ll most likely put it up for auction in April,” says Evert Botha, COO of Embee Diamonds, located in Prince Albert, Canada. “At this time we’re considering bids from buyers all over the world. We’re confident Esperanza will find a good home.”
In an ideal world, some would like Esperanza’s home to be where its geological heart is – Arkansas. Evert and others that have helped Esperanza go from rough diamond to polished gem claim The Natural State has a number of wealthy residents that could make Arkansas Esperanza’s permanent home. But long-term residency is part of Esperanza’s yet-to-be-written narrative.
It was something shy of a miracle the diamond was even cut and polished in Arkansas. After Bobbie discovered the diamond rough she went back to her home state of Colorado. After conducting some research, she found Neil Beaty, president of American Gem Registry, one of Colorado’s premier gemological labs. Neil, a long-time industry friend, contacted Evert and Mike Botha about cutting and polishing this extraordinary find.
Neil and other gem experts that have examined Esperanza not only attest to the diamond’s peerless color and clarity qualities, but also its lesser-known exceptional properties. “The Esperanza Diamond is virtually free of nitrogen, roughly one part per billion,” says Mike. “In terms of hardness, this places the Esperanza in another category.”
Mike recalls another famous diamond like this – The Premier Rose diamond. Mike cut the Baby Premier Rose. The odds of cutting another such diamond in his lifetime were at the same level of winning a mega-million Powerball lottery. Yet less than a year after Mike and Evert joined Stanley Jewelers Gemologist for their “Dig for Diamonds” event they were back in Little Rock cutting what is now the most valuable diamond ever discovered in America.
“We brought 10 tangs with us,” says Mike. “And just about every measuring tool we could carry,” says Evert. The team at OGI Technologies in New York shipped out a scanner so that Mike and Evert could scan and measure Esperanza throughout the weeklong process. With hundreds of people coming through the store that week (and a live-stream audience of thousands watching from a hundred countries), it was an incredibly busy week. But Mike was comfortable doing what he does best – talking to customers about the cutting and polishing process while crafting this national treasure.
Esperanza took roughly 180 hours to cut, with the number of hours almost evenly split between the North Little Rock jewelry store and the Botha’s cutting facility in Canada. But the number of facets cut at each location wasn’t so evenly split. “Esperanza has 147 facets, 105 were cut in Little Rock and 42 were cut in Canada,” says Mike. “The reason being is that I had to modify some equipment to facilitate the cutting of the last 42 facets.”
The Esperanza triolette created by Mike is a custom design, based on a smaller prototype from about five years ago. Due to its unique shape, Esperanza couldn’t be fashioned into a traditional fancy shape, such as a marquise or a pear, forcing Mike to go back to the drawing board.
“I was led by the shape of the rough diamond to come up with a design that would yield the best results for weight as well as light return,” says Mike. “I decided on the triolette design as it suited the rough shape the best. The triolette consists of a triangular design when viewed from the ends. From the sides and top views it resembles a boat shape. As far as the facet configurations are concerned, it could be described as a composite of emerald and trapezoid cuts, with the emeralds being the center portion, tapering on both sides to a point. Each of the three ‘sides’ of the triolette consists of seven longitudinal and seven lateral facets for a total of 49 facets on each of the three sides. The total facet count is 157 [49 x 3].”
The cutting event couldn’t have come at a better time for Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2016. And, with the Esperanza diamond cutting happening in September, the store event created much-needed buzz and excitement in the lead up to 2015 fourth quarter sales.
“Hosting the diamond cutting event on the eve of the fourth quarter was ideal timing for us,” says Laura Stanley, vice president of Stanley Jewelers Gemologist. “More than 500 people toured the store during the week-plus event. It was a great promotional event that certainly helped with holiday sales for us.”
The diamond tour went on to Arizona and California in January and will end at Whiteflash in Houston, TX and Underwood’s San Marco Blvd. location in Jacksonville, FL in February.