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Diamonds in the Drift

May 20, 2017




1964. The heist of the century. Musician, author, artist, con man, one time east coast surfing champion, Jack Roland “Murph the Surf” Murphy  and two accomplices hit the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and stole the JP Morgan Collection of Precious Gems. Among the stones taken was the 16.25 carat Eagle Diamond from Eagle, Wisconsin. When it was found In 1876, it was the largest diamond yet found in the United States. Within 48 hours of the heist, Murphy and his partners - apprehended while celebrating their success at a tavern - were behind bars. The Eagle Diamond was never seen again.


The Eagle Diamond was the first documented diamond discovery in Wisconsin. It was found in a glacial deposit in the summer of 1876 by Charles Wood.  A few years later Wood’s wife, Clarissa, took the rock to a jeweler in Milwaukee named Samuel Boynton.  Boynton initially identified it as topaz and paid Clarissa Wood $1.00 for the stone. Shortly thereafter, the stone was correctly re-identified by Boynton as a diamond. Clarissa offered to buy it back for $1.50. Boynton sold it to Tiffany’s for $840. Tiffany’s sold it to almost the richest man in the world, J. P. Morgan, who eventually donated it to the Museum of Natural History.

Most of the diamonds that occur in the Great Lakes region have been found in glacial deposits (moraines) in southeastern Wisconsin. The Teresa Diamond, the largest of the diamonds found in Wisconsin, was discovered in 1888 near Kohlsville on or near the Green Lake Moraine.  The stone weighed 21.5 carats and is currently the fifth largest diamond found in the United States. It has since been cut into 10 pieces. The Eagle Diamond may have met the same fate on it's incredible million year journey from an ancient volcano in Canada to glacial drift in Wisconsin, into the hands of  J P Morgan and finally, celebrity thief Murph the Surf.