Chance discoveries in our backyards

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Finding diamonds is akin to finding a needle in a haystack

By Kirsten Peters

Some of us have never found a single dollar bill on the sidewalk. But once in a blue moon a lucky soul in the upper Midwest reaches down into the Ice Age deposits of our country and plucks out a diamond.  

It doesn’t take much geologic knowledge to recognize a diamond in the rough as an interesting and valuable object.

Diamonds are the hardest mineral in the Earth, which means they will scratch quartz, window glass and even other hard gems like ruby and emerald.

And diamonds have a very high luster, a term referring to their ability to reflect light.

In short, it’s not too tough to identify diamonds, even before they have been shaped into cut gemstones.

That’s why, since the 1800s, farmers and other residents of the Midwest have occasionally spotted and scooped up a diamond when digging water wells or otherwise disturbing the ground.

Most diamonds are found near the place where deep Earth processes blasted them to the surface in special rock material called kimberlite (named for Kimberley, South Africa).

But there aren’t rocks like that in the Midwest.  

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