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8.5-carat diamond found: Where else can amateurs score precious gems? (+video)

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(Read caption) Woman finds 8.5 carat diamond in Arkansas park

An out-of-state tourist has found an 8.52-carat diamond at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.

Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colo., found the gem Wednesday in the southwest corner of the Pig Pen, the park’s 37.5-acre search field named for its muddy terrain, CNN reported. The diamond – about three-quarters of an inch in length and as big around as a No. 2 pencil – is the fifth largest found since the park was established in 1972, park interpreter Waymon Cox told the Associated Press.

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The park’s biggest gem, the Amarillo Starlight Diamond, is 16.37 carats and was discovered 1975.

Ms. Oskarson named her find the Esperanza Diamond, after her niece, and plans to keep the gem, according to CNN. The park, which boasts that it is the only site in the world where the public can search for diamonds, adheres to a “finders-keepers” policy.

It isn’t, however, the only place in the United States where enterprising amateurs can hunt for precious stones.

Hiddenite, N.C., is host to the 70-acre Emerald Hollow Mine, the only emerald site in the US open to the public for prospecting. Open year-round, the mine gives visitors a taste of the lush scenery of North Carolina’s Brushy Mountains and the chance to hunt for emeralds as well as garnets, topaz, sapphires, and other gems.

While in the Tar Heel State, treasure hunters should also swing by the Cherokee Ruby Mine in Franklin, and Gem Mountain in Spruce Pine. The first is home to collector-grade rubies as well as sapphires, while the latter is a hunting ground for aquamarines.

The Morefield Gem Mine, just an hour away from Richmond, Va., is the place for enthusiasts with an interest in amazonite, a bright turquoise stone. The mine, which has its own exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., produces 80 different minerals and is open to miners of all skill levels, including beginners, according to the International Gem Society.

Heading to the West Coast? Hunt for opals at the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine in Virgin Valley, Nev. or quality amethysts in Four Peaks, Ariz.

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Montana has its own Gem Mountain as well, found about 20 miles outside the town of Philipsburg. The site is known for its sapphires and stones, which visitors can dig for with the help of local staff: “We dig up the dirt for you, wash it, concentrate it, and bring it to the store by the dump truck load,” Gem Mountain’s website reads.   

Those who can’t make the journey can find and order the gems online.

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