CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – West Virginia contains its fair share of gems, but did you know that it was where the largest alluvial diamond in North America was found? It’s called the Jones Diamond, a blue-white gem weighing 34.46 carats, or 34.48 depending on the source, and measuring 5/8 inch in diameter. What’s most fascinating is that its discovery is still a mystery to this day.
The Jones Diamond, also called the Jones “Punch” Diamond or Horseshoe Diamond, was discovered in April 1928 in Rich Creek, near Peterstown. Grover Jones and the eldest son of his 17 children, William Pinkney “Punch” Jones, were pitching horseshoes when they noticed a peculiar stone in the horseshoe pit. What they did not know was that the stone they found was actually the largest known alluvial diamond in North America, with an estimated value of over $100,000.
What still confuses many scholars and geologists is just how a diamond like that ended up in the pit, especially since American diamonds are exceptionally rare.
Arnout Hyde wrote in New River: A Photographic Essay, “geologists believe that glaciers during the Ice Age deposited the few isolated diamonds found in America.” According to appalachianhistory.net, Dr. Roy J. Holden, the geologist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute who verified the Jones Diamond, theorized based on “carry impact marks” and size that “it had probably been washed down the New River into Rich Creek from a source in Virginia, North Carolina, or Tennessee.”
Unfortunately, the Jones family did not initially know what they had found and instead opted to put the diamond into a cigar box in the tool shed.
Punch Jones eventually married and had a son, leaving the diamond unverified until May 5, 1943, when he took it to Dr. Holden. Then, on July 13, 1943, Punch registered for the Army in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
In 1944, he gave the diamond to the Smithsonian Institution to be displayed. Unfortunately, Punch would not get the chance to see the diamond again.
“After his training at Camp Fannin, Texas, he was sent to the European Theatre, where he was killed in action on April 1, 1945,” according to West Virginia Archives and History. He was laid to rest at the Peterstown Cemetery in Monroe County.
A one-fourth share of the diamond was given to his mother, father, wife and son.
The Jones Diamond stayed at the Smithsonian until 1968, when it was moved back to West Virginia to be exhibited at the state fair. After the state fair, the Jones family had the diamond put into a safe deposit box at the First Valley National Bank in Rich Creek, Virginia.
According to appalachianhistory.net, the stone would not see the light of day until 1984, when the remaining shareholders, Punch’s mother and son, sold the stone to Sotheby’s auction house and was bought by “a lawyer in the Orient” for $74,250.
Erected in 1970, before the sale of the diamond, a historical marker can be found on U.S. Route 219 in Peterstown at the corner of Sycamore and Market Streets, according to the Historical Marker Database.
The marker inscription reads, “An alluvial diamond weighing 34.48 carats, largest to date found in North America, was discovered here in April 1928 by William P.’Punch’ Jones and his father, Grover C. Jones Sr., while pitching horseshoes in the home yard of Mr. and Mrs. Grover C. Jones. ‘Punch’ was later killed in combat during World War Two. Mr. and Mrs. Grover C. Jones still retain ownership of the diamond.”
Additional information about the history of the diamond can be found here.