Some Large And Exquisite Diamonds Were Discovered In The Cincinnati Area

Let us know when you dig up something this shiny in your backyard.

When was the last time you went out for a stroll, intent on finding a diamond? In the Greater Cincinnati region, some very nice stones have turned up in creeks and farm pastures.

The most famous diamond found in this region was discovered around 1896. Two young girls playing in the plowed field of a farmer named Joseph R. Taylor just outside Milford discovered a curious pebble and brought it home. As it developed, that stone was a diamond weighing about six carats. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer [27 November 1898] the children picked up this “lucky stone” along with a handful of quartz pebbles to play “jack stones.”

“Mr. Taylor noticed the children at play and was struck with the odd shape of the ‘lucky stone.’ On closer examination it appeared very remarkable to him, as he had never noticed anything similar to it in the neighborhood before.”

Found in a field outside Milford, the Taylor diamond excited a rush for the precious stones in 1898. The current location of the Taylor diamond is a mystery.

From Cincinnati Post 26 November 1898 Image extracted from microfilm by Greg Hand

On the advice of a neighbor, Mr. Taylor took it to a jeweler, who proclaimed it a diamond of excellent quality. According to the Enquirer, the jeweler, Herman Keck Jr., president of the Duhme Jewelry Company on Fourth Street in Cincinnati, had the stone cut and polished.

“Tints unseen in other diamonds flash forth from its many faceted sides, and a hidden fire continually lurks within its depths. Its rare beauty gives it a value incommensurate with its weight, but leaving this out of the question, the unique position that the gem occupies would also cause it to be prized.”

While the Taylor diamond was renowned for its brilliancy, its subsequent history is murky at best. Most sources claim that the University of Cincinnati acquired the stone. UC Professor Thomas H. Norton lectured on the Taylor stone in December 1898. Gemologist Arthur A. Vierthaler reported in a 1961 article for Gems & Gemology that the Taylor diamond was still among UC’s mineral samples, but the Ohio Geological Survey’s Fall 1982 newsletter has this note:

“In recent years the University of Cincinnati was not able to verify the existence of the diamond in their collections.”

Although the newspapers hailed the Taylor diamond as the first ever to be found in the Cincinnati area, it was not the first nor would it be the last. In fact, nearly two years before the Enquirer breathlessly described the Taylor diamond, the Cincinnati Post [22 February 1897] described another diamond, found in the creek separating Joseph Taylor’s farm from that of his neighbor, James Cline. A young farmhand named Clifford Miller found it. According to the Sports:

“It is nearly as large as a walnut. What leads many to think that the stone is a diamond is the fact that Joseph Taylor, who owns the farm on the other side of the creek, found a similar stone five months ago, which proved to be a diamond. The creek is now crowded with people looking for the precious stones.”

Although reports are hazy at best, it appears other diamonds were found in Clermont County’s fields and streams. A squib [8 December 1898] in the Daily Jeffersonian, printed at Cambridge, Ohio, perhaps overstates the case, but not by much:

“Milford, Clermont county, sees the rest of the state and raises it one. Milford farmers refuse to waste their time in digging for gold, and sneer at anything but diamonds. The latest find is a $200 stone while a farmer was plowing. Plowing is now a favorite occupation in that county.”

So fervid was the rumor mill about Clermont County diamonds that the University of Cincinnati mounted an expedition in December 1898 to explore a report from a student that two new diamonds had been found near Milford. Alas, the instigating student, daughter of a Milford minister, confessed that her story was a hoax, just as the cavalcade was about to depart campus.

The Keck family, owners of the Duhme Jewelry Company, purchased the Taylor diamond and had it cut and polished for display in the company’s large store on Fourth Street.

From Kenny’s Illustrated Cincinnati 1875 Digitized by the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County Page 150

The Enquirer [27 November 1898] reminded readers that a diamond of much grander size had been reported a great deal closer to Cincinnati nearly a decade previous to the Milford discoveries:

“Ten years ago there was considerable excitement in this city over the rumored finding of a diamond 80 carats in weight by a workman engaged on a stone-crushing machine. The theory was advanced that it was the diamond lost in 1806 by Mrs. Clarke on Blennerhassett Island, and spoken of by Aaron Burr in a letter to his daughter.”

Whether that rumor was suspicious or not, the stone in question was included among an inventory of diamonds found in the states surrounding the Great Lakes, compiled by Christopher B. Gunn, a Canadian consulting geologist, for publication in the journal Gems & Gemology. Gunn’s “descriptive catalog” appeared in the journal’s summer and fall issues for 1968.

As it turns out, quite a few diamonds have been brought to light in the lands south of the Great Lakes. According to the Ohio Geological Survey, three diamonds each have been found in Ohio, Michigan and New York. Wisconsin has reported 16 diamonds and Illinois 25, but the real champion is Indiana, with 34 discoveries. Every one of the 84 diamonds itemized by the Ohio Geological Survey were identified from around 1873 to the mid-1920s. Since then, another half-dozen diamonds have been reported from various locations in Ohio.

The first mention of diamonds from the Great Lakes region in any scientific work appeared in a United States government publication, “Mineral Resources of the United States for the year 1883-4,” in which George Frederick Kunz documented the sensation caused by reported diamond discoveries near Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1883. Kunz recognized that diamonds were not formed in these Upper Midwest states. He knew that they all originated in Canada and were dragged southwards by the glaciers that blanketed the area until the past 10,000 years or so.

In 1981, writing for the United States Geological Survey, W. F. Cannon and M. G. Mudrey, Jr. suggested that even more glacially deposited diamonds are out there, gathering dust on shelves and in drawers:

“Stones may well have been found in the past 80 years, but their significance is poorly understood by the finder, and the stone rests on a shelf or in a box awaiting rediscovery.”

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