AKA Cape May Diamonds
The Delaware Bay Diamonds are quartz crystals, resembling translucent pebbles. They begin their lives truly “in-the-rough” in the upper reaches of the Delaware River, in the areas around the Delaware Water Gap. Pieces of quartz crystal are broken off from veins and pockets by the water current from mountain streams that feed into the river. Thus begins a journey of more than 200 miles that takes thousands of years to complete. Along the way, the sharp edges of the stones are smoothed as they are tumbled along the river bottom to the bay on rapid river currents. Eventually the stones come to rest on the shores of the Delaware Bay in South New Jersey and Southern Delaware.
Thousands of vacationers from Cape May and the Delaware Beach area come each year search for these sparkling crystals that, when cut and faceted, have the appearance of real diamonds. The largest concentration is on the sands of Sunset Beach in Cape May Point. The ship wreck, Atlantis and a rocky jetties trap the stones, which are forced ashore in large quantities just prior to being swept by the tides into the Atlantic Ocean.
Some days the stones are more plentiful than others. Would-be prospectors should come equipped with a beach bucket, sand shovel, and a beach sieve to shake off sand. Typical stones are about the size of a pea and come in different shapes and colors. “Much of the time, larger stones the size of marbles are just underneath a layer of smaller ones,” advises Kathy Hume. Finds as large as eggs have been reported. On one occasion, a gem weighing over one pound was found. Prospectors may also find sharks’ teeth, Indian arrowheads, agates, and black quartz.
Some gift shops at Sunset Beach sell Delaware Bay Diamond jewelry. These pieces are made from gems that have been smoothed and polished in rock
tumblers or cut and faceted. When they are faceted, these gems have the appearance of a genuine diamonds and before the advent of modern gem scanning equipment, many a pawn broker was fooled by the “Delaware Bay Diamond.” Sand N Stones, Delaware and Nature Shoppe in Lewes, Delaware likes to wrap the stone in its natural state, as well as tumbled and they make wonderful souvenirs from the beach.
Delaware Bay Diamonds may have more than just monetary or sentimental value. In an earlier time, the local Kechemeche Indians, a part of the Lenni-Lenape tribe, believed the gems had supernatural powers to influence the well-being and good fortune of their possessor. The bonds of friendship and lasting goodwill were often sealed with gifts or exchanges of the sacred gems or for trading with other tribes and with the newly arriving European colonists.
This was especially true of those gems which were larger and free of any flaws. One of the largest “Cape May Diamonds” was presented to an early settler, Christopher Leaming, by King Nummy, last chief of the Lenni-Lenape. King Nummy received the gem from the Kechemeche as a tribute to him and as proof of their faithfulness and loyalty. Mr. Leaming had the stone sent back to the old country, Amsterdam, Holland. A lapidary expertly cut and polished the stone into a most beautiful gem.
Historically, the southeast portion of New Jersey contained many glass manufacturers, and Delaware Bay Diamonds are often attributed incorrectly to glass remnants, or sea glass discarded by these sources, which were then washed down the Delaware River until they were tumbled in a smoothed on local beaches. Delaware Bay Diamonds are more rounded like that of a grape or pea, where as sea glass tends to be more triangular in shape.
A gentleman came into Sand N Stones, one day, and I was telling him about the Delaware Bay Diamonds, AKA Cape May Diamonds. He told me of how the Cape May Diamond truly got it name. There was a gentleman, who dated his Aunt, who was a rock hound and had been collecting these clear quartz off the beaches of Cape May. One year a Gem Show came to Cape May, New Jersey, and this gentleman wanted to participate in the show. So he filled out the application, when he was asked what he would be selling he put clear quartz stones found on the beaches of Cape May. They would not allow him into the show because the sponsors did not feel that they were the type of stones/gems that they represented in their show. that it was a gem show. He took his case to court. He told the judge that these beach stones were actually Cape May Diamonds. He stated that a Presidential figure (he did not remember which one) was walking the beach and saw these stones that when he held them up he saw a rainbow like are ”fire” in the stones, very similar to what Diamonds have, and he called them Cape May Diamonds. He won the case and participated in the show. The gentleman in the store told me that Rock Hound made up the story so that he could win the case and participate in the show.
The one that I have wrapped pictured are still in its natural rough state. I have not tumbled it, I personally like that frosted natural state of the Delaware Bay Diamonds. To me they have the texture like sea glass, yet they are from the mineral world. If you would like, I will be happy to wrap one that you have found, however, it needs to be close to the size of a dime for me to be able to wrap it.
Recently I have learned that you can also find Bay Diamonds in the Chesapeake Bay as well, however they are a bit darker and some are even a bit greyish black.