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Ten New North Carolina Diamonds

December 4, 2014
This octahedral diamond cyrstal looks like it has been faceted. These are all growth textures on the triangular crystal faces.

NCSM 5997. This octahedral diamond crystal looks like it has been faceted. These are all natural growth textures on the triangular crystal faces.

There have been 13 diamonds found in the state of North Carolina since 1893, the largest of which was four carats. Most of them were found as a result of panning operations for gold or monazite. One of these is in the Geology Collection of the Museum of Natural Sciences: NCSM 3225. It came from Burke County and was part of the collection of J.A.D. Stephenson, the man who discovered emeralds and chromian spodumene (aka hiddenite) in Alexander County.

NCSM 3225, one of the original thirteeen diamonds found in North Carolina. From the collection of J.A.D Stephenson.

NCSM 3225, one of the original thirteeen diamonds found in North Carolina. From the collection of J.A.D Stephenson.

You can imagine my feelings when 13 more diamonds came into my laboratory, all at one time.

In many ways this story belongs to Jeff Moyer of Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, a gold prospector and amateur exploration geologist. Jeff was the most gifted amateur geologist I ever met. He was a keen student of history, consulting records from the old Charlotte Mint and taking time to learn the oral history of the areas where he worked. He designed and patented his own equipment. Our conversations about North Carolina geology were long and detailed, like I was having a thesis defense all over again. His restless and curious intellect eventually became fascinated with the idea of finding the source of North Carolina’s diamonds. So he modified his equipment to trap diamonds as well as gold. And it worked.

I have met all sorts of miners over the years, and Jeff impressed me as genuine. We purchased 10 of the diamonds, and I went to work. Jeff and I made plans to go into the field to reproduce his findings. It never happened. Jeff was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and died shortly thereafter.

My instinct was that Jeff was honest, and not trying to put anything over on me and the Museum. But there is always the nagging suspicion that diamonds could be synthetic and not natural. Perhaps someone was salting Jeff’s area as a joke. We needed independent verification of the diamonds. I did everything I could. EDS analysis on the scanning electron microprobe at the Analytical Instrumentation Facility at NC State showed that they were diamonds with traces of iron, silicon and aluminum on the surface, consistent with a natural origin. The diamonds were also a variety of crystal shapes. Synthetic stones tend to be all of one crystal shape.

My own scientific expertise is in mineralogy, particularly thermodynamics and microanalysis. Minerals tell the entire story of the rock, but in this case, I couldn’t read it. The processes of making synthetic diamonds can be shrouded in secrecy, and the engineering moves faster than I can keep track of it. I needed an expert in diamonds, someone conversant in the ways to tell synthetic stones from natural stones. And there the project sat for many years. The Museum did not have the money to send the samples out for independent evaluation.

Fortunately for me, our new Director, Emlyn Koster, took an interest in the project. His commute every day took him past Diamonds Direct Crabtree, a North Carolina based diamond firm. They were diamond experts, why don’t we approach them?  <Facepalm> Why didn’t I think of that?

The Vice President of Diamonds Direct Crabtree, Mr. Barak Henis, took a personal interest in the diamonds. Diamonds Direct has an ongoing relationship with the Gemological Institute of America, so they sponsored the Museum by sending five of the diamonds for evaluation. They saved us a great deal of money.

The verdict came back: the stones were natural diamond. The people at Diamonds Direct Crabtree were as excited as we were.

So, dear readers, the Museum of Natural Sciences, Diamonds Direct Crabtree, and I are pleased to announce the discovery of 10 new diamonds from North Carolina.  This is exciting news for everyone. These diamonds are small, but it means we are one step closer to finding the source of diamonds in North Carolina. It also means that there is a scientific treasure trove waiting to tell us about the mantle far below North Carolina. I’ll take a look at that in later blog posts.

It also means we are one step closer to fulfilling Jeff Moyer’s legacy. Rest in peace, Jeff. You were right.

All ten new NC diamonds, on a millimeter grid for scale.

All ten new NC diamonds, on a millimeter grid for scale.

Pictures shown below were taken with the new Keyance Digital Microscope, purchased for Research and Collections thanks to a bequest from the estate of Renaldo Kuhler.  



NCSM 5995.

NCSM 5995.

NCSM 5996, a dodecahedral diamond crystal.

NCSM 5996, a dodecahedral diamond crystal.

NCSM 5997, a modified octahedron.

NCSM 5997, a modified octahedron.

NCSM 5998

NCSM 5998.

NCSM 5999. This is a perfect octahedron,

NCSM 5999. This is a perfect octahedron.

NCSM 6000.

NCSM 6000.

NCSM 6001.

NCSM 6001.

NCSM 6002.

NCSM 6002.

NCSM 6003.

NCSM 6003.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2014 1:47 pm


  2. December 4, 2014 5:50 pm

    I am perfectly sure this is legitimate, but the work done to prove they are natural, rather than synthetic, diamonds completely misses the point that if they were salted then it would be far more likely to be salted with natural diamonds from a more easily obtainable source. The reason? Diamonds from North Carolina would carry a huge premium if resold.

    A fraud along these lines was previously attempted and caught out, documented very well here:

    • December 5, 2014 8:17 am

      We see all sorts of scams with gems, minerals, and fossils in the museum, most often with items that people bring in. Although we don’t release the values of pieces that we purchase, I can tell you that if this was a “buy low, sell very high” sort of scam, then it was a fail.

      Also, it was not a one-off sale. Jeff and I had an ongoing relationship for several years, where he was doing the field work, and I was doing the lab work. Buying the diamonds was only a part of that. Amateur geologists really have no inkling what I can do with microanalysis and microscopy. Jeff was pretty excited when he found out about modern analytical capabilities.

      That contrasts strongly with an earlier project I was involved with, where I tried unsuccessfully to buy specimens for analysis. An article came out about using SIMS (Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy) analysis of oxygen isotopes to source gemstones. I confirmed for the miners that it was possible, and that there was a SIMS lab at NCSU. And that was that. I never got any specimens for analysis, and moved on to other projects.

      • December 5, 2014 1:51 pm

        I think the size of the stones alone precludes it being a fraud – but still I thought it was worthwhile sharing the story about the Arkansas fraud. Very pleased to see these new diamonds!

  3. Pete Modreski permalink
    December 5, 2014 12:33 pm

    Hi, Chris! Neat article, and great to read about these NC diamonds! I’ve saved the picture of the 10 of them for possible use when I’m giving talks about diamonds.

    • December 5, 2014 12:41 pm

      Hello, Pete, hope it’s not too cold in Denver. Please feel free to use them as you see fit. We would greatly appreciate it if you would credit the museum and me when you do. The funny thing is, I tell people that diamonds in nature don’t look like the ones in the store. Then I took that picture that’s at the top of the page. Oh, well.

  4. December 6, 2014 10:59 pm

    In an article published with Ed Speer in Volume 1, Issue 2 of American Rockhound magazine in June, 2014, we discussed 15 diamonds that were found in Reedy Creek in Mecklenburg County. These diamonds were found by a gold prospector and sold to a reputable local mineral dealer. They were then sold to various collectors. This was around 1999. The diamonds averaged .5 carat and 1-2mm. The diamonds have been tested and there is no reason not to believe that the prospector found these, in fact, the story is very similar to this one. So what is the criteria for getting them authenticated?

    • December 9, 2014 3:18 pm

      Hi, Rick, this one takes too long to answer right here, but I’ll post a new blog in a few days that features this comment.

      • December 9, 2014 3:35 pm

        The diamonds from upper Reedy Creek were all a pale pea green color, consistent with the description of some of the early documented diamonds described by Kunz. One was in the collection of mineral collector Ken Kyte, the others were sold to various people, with one going to Rob Whaley of Concord. There is a lamprophyre in the headwaters of upper Reedy Creek. And it is one of only three mapped lamprophyre intrusives in nearly 8,000 square miles mapped in the surrounding area. It occurs on the Mecklenburg/Cabarrus County line. See Geologic map of the Charlotte 2 sheet. (Goldsmith, R., Milton, D.J., & Horton, Jr., J.W., 1988, USGS, Map 1-1251-E.) Since our article came out, several people have been in the area searching for more of these green diamonds. I am hoping that one will be found to verify the ones we have.

        Have anymore specimens been found in the area where the 10 diamonds you have listed were found.

      • December 10, 2014 11:22 am

        Not yet. Working on it.

    • December 9, 2014 4:02 pm

      > there is no reason not to believe that the prospector found these

      When money is involved then there is every reason to be suspicious. Again, see the story about the Arkansas fraud I mentioned before. In that case the “collector” was just unlucky to get caught out, but it’s so easy to fake diamond sources that one would hope that there was a bit more than blind faith in the collector before things get noted down officially as genuine diamond finds from the region.

      • December 9, 2014 4:17 pm

        The diamond that was purchased by Rob Whaley from the mineral dealer in 1999 was bought for $15. Not a lot of money changing hands, but I would still want to see another one from that creek before I would absolutely claim them to be from NC. Is there any other proof other than finding another specimen from the source that could verify a local find? I have had my diamond for almost 15 years and have never shown it to anyone, as I never had proof that it was from NC. I only showed it to geologist Ed Speer when he took an interest in it and the one Rob Whaley had as they have the same crystal structure and color. Since our article, people have been searching the creek area looking for more, but none yet.

      • December 9, 2014 6:50 pm

        If someone claims to find 15 diamonds in a place but future collectors find nothing then either hes been very thorough in prospecting the area and leaving nothing, or he’s just very good at what he does, or there is some level of fraud involved – whether it is minor (eg deliberately misleading information about the exact area they were recovered) or major (salted stones).`

        It would seem unlikely that someone would go to the trouble of faking it over a $15 diamond (the Arkansas diamonds were offered for sale for FAR more) but still it’s healthy to be suspicious.

      • December 10, 2014 11:21 am

        Well, Jolyon Ralph, maybe, maybe not. What we don’t know is the amount of sediment he went through to get those diamonds, and if he was simply panning or using another method to isolate diamonds. Same with the source rocks. It’s like any ore deposit- you have to understand the mechanisms of concentrating the ore in a particular place, and then find out how much rock you have to go through to get what you want. This can be a drawback. Even if the lamprophyre mentioned in another comment is the source, diamonds may be so widely dispersed that you have to process a LOT of rock to find one. Tons of rock to find a 2 mm diamond is not a big payoff. The stream acts as a mechanism to concentrate the ore, in this case diamonds. But again, how much of the creek do you need to dig up to find more? That is limited by law in NC. My approach would be to take a closer look at geochemistry of the lamprophyre.

  5. Nathaniel Read permalink
    April 21, 2015 5:32 pm

    Take this for what it is worth, I grew up with my 5 brothers at 3801 Sheridan dr. Charlotte NC, 28205 (i’m 42 now). In the creek that runs through that property. One of my brothers found a gold nugget. I studied Chemistry at UNCC and took them to geology department and a professor there wasn’t surprised and asked where I found them. At the time we were so excited I didn’t tell him. My older brothers and I turned that creek upside down and found no other nuggets, but it was hard work and I don’t know that we tried that hard. But that creek is full of all sorts of interesting stones. I know we found an 8 side small stone once maybe half a centimeter across. I think I thought it was just quartz at the time. Since we found parts of broken quartz crystals before. I don’t think the creek even has a name, it comes from the brier creek, which I think comes from the Reedy creek if I’m not mistaken. It might flow the other way. My memory is bad. Might be worth checking out. It partly runs through Kilbourne Park. Maybe the residents would let you take a look.

  6. January 12, 2016 1:34 pm

    I noticed that at least two of your diamonds have mineral-looking inclusions in them. These inclusions can provide information about their origin (within the earth, not on the surface of the earth). The green color and brown tracks on others give insight into the radiation history they have. This can possibly help with characterizing their resting places at the surface on the earth, or on the way there.

    • January 14, 2016 12:16 pm

      Hi, Mary, sharp eyes!. We hope to get access to a micro laser Raman spectroscope so that we can ID the inclusions.

  7. September 18, 2017 7:51 pm

    I live in transylvania county north carolina and im holding another diamond from north carolina where do i get it tested and appraised thank you.

    • September 19, 2017 5:19 pm

      Hello, Mr. Fisher,

      Your best bet for ID is to take it to the nearest Geology Department at a university. In your case, it’s Western Carolina in Cullowhee. I don’t know who the mineralogist is there, but anyone can put it under a petrographic microscope and tell if it is isotropic or not. The crystal habit will also give it away. If you took it to Appalachian up in Boone, they might be able to put it under the electron beam and tell you more. For both universities you need to make an appointment rather than just show up.

      Getting an appraisal is a different kettle of fish. You can’t tell what any stone is worth until after it is cut. Any mineral is worth what someone is willing to pay.

      Best regards,
      Chris Tacker

  8. James permalink
    February 18, 2018 11:55 am

    I’m older than dirt, and have put a lot of time in the creeks in Rutherford/Burke/McDowell county gold panning … lots of interesting stuff in the black sands along with some gold. I assumed most of the “sparklies” were zircon … guess I’d better start looking closer 🙂 Done a lot of panning near “Brindle creek” where diamonds have been found .. but, BOY they moved a lot of dirt back then – hydraulic sluiced the whole area. I am confident there are diamonds in situ in NC .. none of economic interest .. but is damn sure is interesting.

  9. May 4, 2019 4:33 pm

    I believe I have A North Carolina Diamond That I found How can I get It checked?

    • May 5, 2019 6:48 pm

      If you think you have a diamond, the first thing to do is try to scratch corundum with it. Second thing is to send us a picture, with something in it for scale, like a dime.

      If you want me to look at it, you can drop it off at the Museum’s Naturalist Center. They will give you a receipt for it. I go by once a week to ID things for them.

      Best regards,
      Chris Tacker


  1. Part II- Ten New Diamonds from NC | Research & Collections

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