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Arkansas State Park Luring Diamond Hunters

After being laid off from his job in the automotive industry, David Anderson didn’t bother searching for work. Instead, he went hunting for treasure — but not just any kind of treasure. Anderson went searching for diamonds.

“First time I came down here was in 2007, and on my third day here I found a carat and a half,” Anderson said. “That kind of hooked me. It was a pretty good one too.”

Anderson is not alone.

He is among many others who have taken up diamond hunting as a full-time career, and it might surprise most people where these treasure seekers are digging.

They aren’t searching in Africa or Canada, but in southeast Arkansas at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

The park sits on top of a volcanic crater and has had 30,000 diamond finds since its opening in 1972.

“It is the only place in the world, as far as we know, that the average person can come out and search for diamonds and keep whatever they find,” park employee Waymon Cox tells CNBC. “On average, visitors usually find something close to a quarter of a carat. The largest diamond found here was over 40 carats, about the size of a gumball.”

For a $7 fee, visitors to the park not only dig for their own diamonds, but can keep whatever they find under the park’s motto, “Finders keepers.”

More than 10 diamonds were found in July 2012, the largest being a brown diamond a little over a half-carat in weight, discovered by a visitor from Texas.

In 2011 alone, 560 diamonds were found, totaling 149.77 carats, according to the park’s website.

That was more than enough to convince Glenn Worthington, another diamond hunter, who visited Crater of Diamonds State Park after hearing about it from a friend.

Worthington tells CNBC that he has foundmore than 200 diamonds since moving to the park after leaving his previous career.

“I was working construction in Kansas,” he said. “So I quit my job, lived in a tent for seven weeks and found 10 diamonds, and I got hooked.”

Worthington said his largest find was a 2.13-carat brown diamond worth $9,800.

And he believes that the finds are only going to get bigger.

“The largest diamond in the United States was found right here, 40.25 carats,” he said. Now that’s huge, but I believe there is a diamond up to 200 carats here, and I know someone’s going to find that 200-carat diamond some day, and it might as well be me.”

Diamonds are as mysterious as they are beautiful. Now CNBC unearths the mystery to reveal the true gem in The Diamond Rush, which premieres Monday, Aug. 27, at 9 p.m. | 12 a.m. ET.

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  • Scott Cohn develops in-depth features, special reports and documentaries for CNBC and CNBC.com.