Twelve-year old William P. “Punch” Jones and his father, Grover C. Jones, Sr. were pitching horseshoes in Peterstown, WV one day in April 1928 when one of the shoes landed on an unusually beautiful stone. Believing the item to be simply a piece of shiny quartz common to the area, the family kept it in a wooden cigar box inside a tool shed for fourteen years, throughout the Depression. Punch Jones, meantime, worked his way through college during that time while his father struggled as a county school teacher to provide for his large family.
On May 5, 1943, Punch brought the stone to Dr. Roy J. Holden, a geology professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in nearby Blacksburg, Virginia. Holden, shocked at Punch’s discovery, authenticated the find as a diamond. The “Jones Diamond,” also known as the “Punch Jones Diamond,” “The Grover Jones Diamond,” or “The Horseshoe Diamond,” is an 34.48 carat alluvial diamond. It’s the largest alluvial diamond, and the third largest diamond overall, ever discovered in North America.
Illustration: Crystalline Structure of a Diamond
Professor Richard Zallen
Virginia Tech Department of Physics
The bluish-white diamond measures 5/8 of an inch across and possesses 12 diamond-shaped faces. No other precious gems are known to have been found in West Virginia. Dr. Holden speculated that due to its “carry impact marks” and the size of the stone it had probably been washed down the New River into Rich Creek from a source in Virginia, North Carolina or Tennessee.
He sent it to the Smithsonian Institution, where it remained for many years for display and safekeeping. In February of 1964, the Jones family brought the diamond back and placed it in a safe deposit box in the First Valley National Bank in Rich Creek, Virginia.
When Grover died in 1976 his widow Grace and grandson Robert became owners of the diamond (Punch had been killed in World War II.) In 1984, Robert sold the diamond through Sotheby’s auction house in New York to an agent representing a lawyer in the Orient, for $74,250. “I wish they’d a threw it in the New River sometimes,” Grace Jones observed over all the controversy. She passed away in 1992.