The Story Of Cape May Diamonds

In Cape May, New Jersey, at Sunset Beach on the shore of Delaware Bay you can see the sunken wreck of the World War One concrete ship, Atlantus. She lies there, half submerged, a few hundred feet offshore. The weather worn wreck is all that remains of an experimental World War I concrete freighter. She was towed there in 1926 to be intentally sunk as a breakwater and protection for the entrance to the then new, Cape May Canal. During a sudden storm on Delaware Bay, she broke free of the towboats and was washed into the waterfall water a mile or more west of her intended resting place near the Canal.

As it happens, this un-natural, man-made barrier is the happy accident that makes Cape May Diamonds available to you. Here is what we believe to be the origin of these unique Cape May Diamonds:

It has been estimated the journey of a Cape May Diamond begins when some quartz rocks fall from a Pennsylvania mountain into the Delaware River. This is thought to happen at or near Delaware Water Gap, in the upper reaches of Delaware River. Over time, the pebbles are washed, ever so slowly, past: Trenton, Palmyra, Camden and Philadelphia and finally to the broad reaches of the shallow, muddy Delaware Bay.

Here, on the pebble-filled shoreline of Sunset Beach, you can search for Cape May Diamonds. What you will find are clear quartz crystals that, after being polished, look like diamonds to the untrained eye. It is believed that the sunken ship has become a barrier that diverts the tides and currents carrying the Cape May Diamonds from the mountains of Pennsylvania toward the Atlantic Ocean. In this way, the journey of the quartz pebbles is changed and they are washed ashore here instead of flowing into the nearby ocean. Scientists estimate it can take over 1,000 years for a pebble to move approximately 200 miles, from the mountains of Pennsylvania to its final resting place on Sunset Beach, in Cape May New Jersey.

The largest Cape May Diamond ever found weighed almost eight ounces. Nearby gift shops sell polished Cape May Diamonds, but it's more fun to search the beaches around Cape May for your own "diamonds." Buff them to a shine and you'll dupe your friends at home into thinking you've hit the mother lode.

Terry Weber


by Terry Weber

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