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For about $1 million, this rare diamond could be yours

The diamond is dazzling and so is the price.

The flawless 4.6-carat gem is half the size of a quarter, but it's worth an estimated $1 million and is considered the most valuable diamond ever uncovered in the United States.

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And it's ready to go home with the right buyer. Black, Starr & Frost has made the diamond available to the highest bidder during an open bidding process that ends Feb. 15.

The Esperanza Diamond, as it is known, made a brief stop this month at the luxury jewelry store's Newport Beach location as part of a three-month nationwide tour.

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The diamond is now in Phoenix, where it was to be showcased at Black, Starr & Frost's location there and shortly after moved to Molina Fine Jewelers, also in Phoenix.

The rare jewel is traveling to a limited number of the country's finest jewelry stores, all affiliated with the American Gem Society, a trade association.

"We can't put the description into words," Alfredo J. Molina, chairman of Black, Starr & Frost, said last week from Phoenix. "It's Earth's art."

The diamond was found in June at Arkansas Crater of Diamonds State Park by a visitor. The gem is the fifth-largest diamond found in the state park since the site was established in 1972, Black, Starr & Frost said.

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More than 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed in the park, one of the world's few diamond-producing sites open to the public, since the first gemstones were first discovered there in 1906, according to Black, Starr & Frost.

Park visitor Bobbie Oskarson of Longmont, Colo., unearthed the Esperanza while digging around the Pig Pen, a 37-acre search field inside the park named for its muddy terrain after rainfall, the jeweler said. She had paid $8 to do a bit of amateur mining.

The diamond was 8.52 carats before it was shaped. The name Esperanza is Spanish for "hope," also the name of Oskarson's niece.

The diamond, Molina said, is the most valuable and one of the purest diamonds ever discovered in the United States. According to an assessment by the American Gem Society, it is an Internally Flawless diamond of D color.

Master diamond cutter Mike Botha of Canada's Embee Diamonds was asked to cut and finish the diamond. After 180 hours at the grinding wheel, Botha transformed the long and narrow diamond into a rare 147-face triolette that resembles a "water drop falling," merging elements of emerald and trapezoid shapes, he said by phone from Phoenix.

Because the diamond does not have any traceable nitrogen, it is colorless and was challenging to cut, he said.

"It was one of the hardest stones I have ever worked on," Botha said, noting that the precise cuts were all done by hand without any assistance from mechanical devices. "It was extremely difficult."

Yellow diamonds, he explained, have more color and more nitrogen, making them softer and easier to cut. To establish the design, Botha created a 3D model of the shape and cut the diamond 100 times in his mind. Each angle, he said, was calculated using trigonometry.

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In September, Botha had packed his cutting gear and traveled from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, to North Little Rock, Ark. where he began the bulk of the cutting in front of viewers at Stanley Jewelers. The diamond was then set in a custom-designed pendant designed by Ian Douglas of Inspired Jewelry Group.

Today, the diamond is so popular it even has its own Facebook page.

"It's the OMG and the W-O-W," Botha said, with a laugh. "It's an amazing diamond."

Molina, who is an 11th-generation jeweler, said it was an honor for Black, Starr & Frost to represent one of the most precious diamonds in the world. He said it was fitting that the company, which he described as the oldest continuously operating jewelry firm in the U.S., was chosen to display the most valuable diamond uncovered in America.

The company has catered to the American elite, with a client list including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Guggenheims, Molina said.

"It's an opportunity for someone to acquire a treasure," he said. "It's an heirloom."

For more information, visit blackstarrfrost.com.

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