Cape May Diamonds

May 17, 2024 | Things To Do

Can I buy a Cape May Diamond anywhere?Imagine walking along the beaches in Cape May, NJ, when you come across diamonds in the sand. You may think that you have discovered the Gold Rush of this time period. Alas, while the stones that you find are sparkly and beautiful, they are not actual diamonds. That being said, searching for the famous cape diamonds is a favorite pastime of locals and tourists alike. Want to take part in the fun? Read more about the Cape May Diamond.

What are these beach diamonds?

The diamonds are pieces of clear quartz that have traveled down the Delaware River from the Catskill and Allegheny mountains. Most of the quartz that makes the 200-mile trip is broken into tiny pieces that look just like sand. Some pieces are large enough to make the trip and be discovered by beachcombers in Cape May, NJ. Many of the quartz pieces have been made smooth by the end of the journey and will closely resemble a diamond once polished. The largest Cape May Diamond ever found was 3 pounds and 14 ounces; it was found in Delaware in 1866. English immigrant Christopher Leaming was presented with a large Cape May Diamond by the Lenape tribe in 1690. Once polished and cut, it was a 20-carat, emerald-cut “diamond.”

Where is the best place to be a beachcomber in Cape May, NJ?

Sunset Beach and Higbee Beach are the best places to search for Cape May Diamonds. Quartz is actually one of the most common minerals on the planet, and it is quite possible that the Cape May beaches are covered in millions of the beach diamonds. However, the beaches are also covered in even more millions of other pebbles and sand. The Cape May Diamond is unique for its unusually pristine transparency and few imperfections. You will need a keen eye to pick out the “diamond in the rough.” Locals will tell you that the best time to look for Cape May Diamonds is in the morning before other people crowd the beach. The beaches also tend to be “covered” in Cape May Diamonds (and other treasures) after a big storm.

Luckily, when you are visiting these beaches, searching for quartz is only one of the things on your “Activities Cape May, NJ” list. Sunset Beach is also the site of the sunken SS Atlantus. The Atlantus was one of twelve concrete ships built as part of the World War I Emergency Fleet. It was launched in 1918 and retired in 1920. It did not remain in retirement for long. In 1926, it was purchased by Colonel Jesse Rosenfeld and was intended to serve as part of a ferry dock. That same year, it broke loose and ran aground just 150 feet off Sunset Beach. These days, viewing the slowly degrading stern is a tourist attraction visible from the beach. While visiting Sunset Beach, take in a round of miniature golf, do a little shopping, and get a bite to eat at the grille (open in season only). Sunset Beach is aptly named because it faces west; it is one of the best places in New Jersey to see the sunset.  Be sure you see our All About the Beaches of Cape May section on our Cape May FAQs page for even more info on local beaches.

Along with being a place to search for Cape May Diamonds, the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area has over two miles of nature trails. It is especially popular with birdwatchers during fall migrations because many birds use the area as a resting spot.

Are there any legends or misconceptions relating to the Cape May Diamond?

The Kechemeche are a Lenape tribe that lived in southern Cape May. They were the first people to recognize the beauty of the beach diamonds. They often used the stones in trades and gave them as gifts. It was believed that the diamonds would give the owner fortune, success, and well-being. Perhaps you will find yourself with a bit of luck should you find a Cape May Diamond.

Some people mistakenly try to label Cape May Diamonds as sea glass. Sea glass is formed when a bottle or other piece of glass is broken, tumbled, and smoothed by waves and currents. Sea glass is often used in jewelry and home decor. A Cape May Diamond may resemble sea glass but it is a very different material. Whereas sea glass is originally man made, quartz is a natural substance.

It is also said that many early pawnbrokers were fooled by Cape May Diamonds. While we do not suggest pawning your lovely find, modern gem scanning equipment has put an end to this scam.


Can I buy a Cape May Diamond anywhere?

Yes! If you are not lucky enough to find your own beach diamond, you can visit Sunset Beach Gifts to purchase one. This is also a great option if you want a piece of jewelry with a Cape May Diamond as the stone. Quartz lands as a seven on the Mohs Scale of Hardness (real diamonds are a ten on the scale), so your new jewelry will be something you can enjoy for years to come. The shop has a large selection of beautiful pieces for sale.






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