Sunday, April 08, 2007

Nowata Man Finds Fame After Diamond Discovery

Tulsa World, NOWATA: A year after he made headlines coast to coast for his discovery of a large diamond in Arkansas, Marvin Culver believes he has become a victim of his own success.

Culver has been back to the Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro, Ark., several times since March 12, 2006, when he discovered the 4.21-carat gem, which he named the "Okie Dokie Diamond."

Each time he has returned, he's felt crowded by throngs of diamond-hunters who flocked to the state park because of publicity generated by his and other big recent finds.

And, more recently, Culver, of No wata, was surprised that he had to pay full retail price at the park's gift shop for a postcard and kitchen magnet bearing a picture of his "Okie Dokie Diamond."

"In some ways, I'm a victim of my own success," joked Culver, who retired last May from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol after 33 years.

Despite those problems, the fame and celebrity treatment he received in the weeks after discovering the diamond - the biggest found at the park in six years - was more than he could have dreamed.

As soon as his find made headlines, Culver received a call from the "Today" show in New York so he could appear there.

He and his wife, Lyndall, along with nephew and niece Dylan and Christina McMahan - all of whom were with him when he found the gem - were flown to New York for two days.

They were treated to limousine rides and were put up in a lavish two-floor penthouse at the posh Hilton Hotel.

It was at his appearance at "Today" when Culver learned how much the flawless, yellow diamond was worth.

A gem expert from Sotheby's auction house was invited on the show and put the diamond's value at between $15,000 and $60,000.

"I didn't know there was such a thing as a yellow diamond," Culver said.

After his New York appearance, Culver went to appear on "Inside Edition" and the Travel Channel, along with interviews with other media outlets.

"We've even had calls from the media in Canada," he said.

"You couldn't have scripted a better story," he said of his adventure.

Culver remembers quite well the day he discovered the stone.

It was a Sunday, two days after Culver, an Enid native, turned 58.

"My wife and I had wanted to make that trip for 10 years, so we finally did it on my birthday weekend," he said.

So Culver packed his prospecting gear - his own sifting screens, a pick, shovel and a bucket - and headed to Murfreesboro, Ark., with his wife, nephew and niece.

Culver said he found the diamond, about the size of a peanut M & M, within the first hour, but thought nothing of it.

"I just slipped it into my pocket and continued looking for diamonds for another three hours," he said.

After his day was through, Culver had the stone weighed at the park. That's when he learned it was a genuine diamond and the biggest found there since 2000.

The next day, he started getting calls for interviews and TV appearances. That continued throughout the week and into the next week.

Culver sold the Okie Dokie in May to Jim Houran of Grapevine, Texas, who collects many of the stones found at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Culver said his sale prevents him from disclosing how much he was paid, but he did note that it was enough to buy a luxury car.

But Culver didn't buy a car.

He used some of the money to set up retirement accounts for his nephew and niece and paid some bills. The rest of it is in savings for a rainy day, he said.

The Okie Dokie's discovery wasn't the first time Culver has been lucky.

He and his wife regularly enter contests, and over the years they've won a new car and trips to Hawaii, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.

There is no mistaking, though, that his most famous bit of luck was no bigger than a peanut M & M.

Copyright (c) 2007, Tulsa World, Okl

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