The United States of America has often been touted as a land of great opportunity and so it must have seemed to cousins Philip Arnold and John Slack.
In 1871 the pair, who were veteran prospectors, travelled to San Francisco where they appeared to then find a diamond mine.
They extracted a full bag of diamonds from their mine and deposited the contents into the vault of the Bank of California.
As everyone knows, wealth attracts wealth and so it wasn’t long before financiers attempted to persuade Philip Arnold and John Slack to talk about their amazing find.
Eventually, the pair agreed to lead their new potential investors to their field in Wyoming where a mining engineer was then employed in order to investigate the find.
When the investors arrived at the field in western Wyoming they were presented given a tour around an area of land that was littered with various gem stones.
Expert jewellers Tiffany assessed the stones as having a value of around $150,000 at 1871 prices.
Following that appraisal there was an upturn in interest amongst businessmen such as Baron von Rothschild, George McClellan, William C. Ralston and even Charles Tiffany of Tiffany and Co which led to Tiffany’s convincing Arnold and Slack to sell their diamond mine for $660,000.
The financilal group who had bought the land then sent a mining engineer and fellow stockholder, Henry Janin, to reassess the land and his reports were extremely positive.
At this point the government took an interest and sent geologists, including Clarence King, to inspect the field.
THE DIAMOND CON
Clarence King found that there were various types of gems scattered all over the field and that some looked to be unnatural, leading him to alert investors.
A more in-depth investigation showed that Philip Arnold and John Slack had actually bought second grade diamonds and other stones from Amsterdam and London and had them scattered them across the field to look like they had been discovered there.
Arnold, who went on to become a banker in Kentucky, was sued by the investors and settled out of court for an unreported sum.
He later died from pneumonia after being shot by a rival banker.
John Slack opted for a quieter life and largely disappeared before dying in 1896.