From the earliest days of the California Gold Rush diamonds were found in the tailraces of sluice boxes that were used for gold washing. Diamonds were found not only in recent stream gravels but much older gravel that was buried under layers of lave and tuff from ancient volcanic activity as fossilized stream channels that ran along the mountains from north to south. These stream channels indicated an ancient stream flow that was almost at right angles to the present day flow.
The biggest problem with
diamonds is there just are not enough to make going after them profitable. Most
of the stones have been found as a result of gold washing operations in both
present day streams and in the fossilized beds of earlier streams. Many of the
diamonds were destroyed by the use of stamp mills used the breakup the gold ore
retrieved from the fossilized streambeds. Their presence was noted as fragments
seen in the gold ore. The diamonds that were recovered from ore were for the
most part small or industrial grade diamonds.
As early as 1853 diamonds were discovered on top of
about thirteen miles north of
Oroville on state Highway 70 close to the ghost town of Cherokee. It was in the gold diggings surrounding the
town that reportedly more then 300 diamonds were found most of them being of
industrial grade. Claims have been made
that at the time this was the largest discovery of diamonds made in Table
America. This has been
exceeded with the discovery of several diamond producing areas in Canada.
Cherokee was the site of the only diamond mine in
and it was here the first diamonds were found.
Mike Maher discovered a perfect blue diamond when he was cleaning out
his sluice box in 1866. Other diamonds
were found here with one of them weighing six carets, but because gold was the
primary concern it is unknown how many millions of dollars worth were discarded
with the mine tailings produced by the hydraulicing for gold with high pressure
jets of water that washed away the gold ore.
The fact that diamonds do occur in
is well attested to in newspapers and scientific journals. In some cases however it is readily apparent
that many of these so-called diamonds were in fact quartz crystals that had
become rounded because of stream action.
One such quartz crystal had been used as a marker in a game of marbles
where it show several percussion marks that were the result of being hit by
marbles. A diamond would not show such
percussion marks, but would rather cleave into pieces instead waiting to be
found in the sluice boxes at work in the area.