Written March 2019 by Tony and Graeme Bishop
Between 1903 and 1904, an extraordinary diamond was found somewhere in the area around Cobalt, Ontario. This diamond, while not widely known about, remains one of the largest diamonds ever discovered, and was named after the district in which it was found: the Nipissing Diamond. Here are the facts about the Nipissing Diamond, in addition to some of the historical quirks of fate which curtailed public knowledge of this diamond for nearly a century and the current efforts to reconstruct the story and the continuing effort by various companies and prospectors to locate the primary source of the Nipissing Diamond.
For context, let us first briefly consider the associated sciences of geology and glaciology, as they apply to this story. In the 16th century, the pioneering mind of Georgios Agricola was directed towards mineral extraction and the processing of ores; his seminal text on mining De Re Metallica remains a functional document, if a little dated, on the subject of working with metallic ores. With the settlement and exploration of ‘the new world’ by Europeans came the first official geological surveys of North America, beginning early in the 19th century. The Geological Survey of Canada was founded in Montreal in 1842, and its initial mandate was largely directed towards the discovery and development of coal deposits. In the history of organized resource extraction, metallic ores and fossil fuel sources have always been preceded by more mundane minerals used as aggregates and building materials, or as Henry Thoreau put it ‘the raw resources of civilization’. Needless to say, the geology and mining of diamonds is a relatively recent addition to the field of mining in general.
The conditions for diamond creation exist beneath the oldest and deepest portions of the earth’s crust, called Cratons, through which diamonds are brought to the surface by means of intrusive features, most often transported by erupting kimberlitic pipes and lamprophyre/lamporite dykes. Aside from circumstances in which these ‘surfaced’ sources of diamonds have been eroded and redeposited in sedimentary structures or as placers, these pipes and dykes remain the dominant sources of diamonds. The geologist and early glaciologist Louis Agassiz commented that “America, so far as her physical history is concerned, has been falsely denominated the New World”; the Superior Craton which underlies much of central Canada contains some of the most ancient rock on earth, and diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes have been identified and actively mined from this host rock. Around 1870, at the place which would be named Kimberley in South Africa, the first ‘modern’ diamond mining location was established, where diamonds could be extracted directly from the ‘kimberlite pipe’ sources which were exposed on surface. In this initial period of modern diamond mining the De Beers company became the primary producer. The glacial history of the Pleistocene created vastly different circumstances for the discovery of diamonds and the location of their sources in North America.
Prior to the 19th century, ‘ice ages’ were not well understood and there was no theory of ‘continental’ glaciation as a geomorphological process. The study of glaciology became an essential part of understanding the geology of Canada, since nearly all of the bedrock of Canada has been exposed and shaped by the action of glaciers during the end-Quaternary glaciation. The massive often miles deep sheets of ice tore through the soil and sand and bedrock and scoured them clean depositing the debris sometimes several feet away, or 100’s of feet, and sometimes 1000’s of miles in the direction ice flowed. Mineral deposits became exposed by glacial erosion and transported with fragments ‘down-ice’ by the expansion of the glacier. Unlike the diamonds in South Africa, the first diamonds found in North America were found in post-glacial regolith (mostly sand, gravel, and boulders) and had been transported great distances from their places of origin (some of which perhaps remain undiscovered) by the movement of glacial ice sheets.
In the decades after the opening of the De Beers diamond projects in Africa, the American company Tiffany’s was actively pursuing North American sources of diamonds. From 1843 to the early 1900’s a number of these diamonds were found in placers and till by miners and occasionally by curious children and adults. In 1876, a self-taught but brilliant geologist, George Frederick Kunz, came to the attention of Tiffany’s Co. of New York. By 1879, Kunz was made Vice President and Chief Mineralogist for the company. His mandate was to investigate all rumors and confirm all findings of individual diamonds, and to purchase them on behalf of Tiffany’s, often at far above actual value, with the intent
of locating the primary source of these stones.
Kunz eventually developed a theory that the diamonds found in the northern states below the Great Lakes had been transported by glaciers from somewhere in Northern Ontario. He prophesied that the ‘big strike’ would not happen in his own land, but in the unexplored north of Canada. Meanwhile, he continued in his attempt to find an American source rich enough to rival Africa’s mines. Following yet another diamond report, in 1906 he traveled to Arkansas where it seems finally a primary source of American diamonds has been discovered. He spent the next year at a diamond prospect in Murfreesboro in what is now a popular tourist site known as the ‘Crater of Diamonds’.
However, while Kunz was busy investigating the ‘Crater of Diamonds’ in 1906, Tiffany’s Co. was visited by a Canadian Member of Provincial Parliament from the northern Ontario district of Nipissing, a Mr. Adolphe Aubin. Mr. Aubin presented a fabulous, 800 carat, slightly yellow-tinted diamond the size of a large hen’s egg, to be evaluated and cut into smaller stones.
Interestingly, in 1920 Kunz also investigated the ‘Peterborough Diamond’, a 33 carat ‘rough, broken and of low value’ stone found near Peterborough, Ontario. It was discovered in till while a new railway line was being built. In journalist Kevin Krajick’s book Barren Lands (2001), he relates that Kunz was excited by the Peterborough diamond because it was proof of concept that diamonds could be found in Canada. Another of George Kunz’s responsibilities was as a special investigator for the U.S. Geological Survey. Following the discovery of the Peterborough Diamond, Kunz strove to validate the theory that diamonds were transported to the northern states below the Great Lakes from Canada.
The existence of the Nipissing Diamond, and its journey to Tiffany’s were recorded by several publications in 1906
The Montreal Herald, Monday, November 12, 1906, page 268:
“The Diamond Find in Temiskaming”
“… Geologists Anticipate Results from Tiffany Expedition.”
“… expedition of geologists and diamond specialists that has been organized by the Tiffany
diamond firm of New York for the purpose of investigating the indications of the presence of
diamonds that have been found in the district west of Temiskaming.”
(Approximately 112 years later at the Diavik Mine, a 552-carat yellow diamond, nearly the same shape
and texture as the Nipissing Diamond, is also found in Canada.)
The following method was used to closer determine the weight (in carats) of the Nipissing Diamond which measures 55x43mm.
A Pyrex graduated cylinder was filled to a level of 300ml with clean water. When one large egg (55x43mm) was placed in the beaker, 50ml of water was displaced.
The specific gravity of diamond is 3.52. Using the formula for finding specific gravity using mass and volume (mass = density x volume) and having a known specific gravity and volume, we can therefore find the diamond’s mass (weight). The result gives a weight of 0.176kg or 880 carats. Now, due to slight irregularities in the surface of the diamond, I subtracted 5% and 10% of the weight, which closer approximates the actual stone’s weight of somewhere between 836 and 792 carats.
The Gazette Montreal, Thursday, July 26, 1906, page 5
“Stone Sent to New York.”
“’New Ontario Diamond’ Declared to Be Real Thing”
“… recurrent reports of diamond discoveries in New Ontario by the fact that Mr. A.O.
Aubin, M.P.P., is now in possession of a stone, which, if a genuine diamond, will be one of the largest in the world. …
“The stone … has been submitted to experts, who declare that it is a genuine
diamond, and on this assurance, Mr. Aubin is sending it to New York to be cut and polished.”
The Mining Journal, September 22, 1906, page 333
The article in the Mining Journal repeats much of the material in the above articles and also includes a copy of the ‘actual size’ drawing made by Father Paradis while the stone was in his possession. Prior to visiting Tiffany’s, Mr. Aubin displayed the stone to Parliament. Although the diamond discovery had been reported in a number of prestigious newspapers, no specific source location or other stones were documented as being found.
Tiffany’s, being very secretive, made no further mention of this or the location of other discoveries they investigated. This is with good reason, as it is on the historical record that upon discovering the ‘Crater of Diamonds’ site, over 10,000 hopeful miners and treasure seekers descended on that location the same year. In 1906, due to the discovery of vastly rich silver veins at Cobalt in 1903, there were already over 10,000 miners and prospectors camped next to Lake Temiskaming, when Tiffany’s was also searching quietly nearby for the source of the Nipissing Diamond.
Jeweler’s Circular Weekly, August 1, 1906, page 55
Father Paradis states, “I myself have seen the stone. It is as large as a hen’s egg, and
has a rough surface and a yellowish tinge. All the usual tests have been applied to it”
Fast forward ~ 85 years from 1906 and Keith Barron, a geologist from Southern Ontario (currently CEO and Chairman of Aurania Resources), hears a rumour of a large diamond found in Northern Ontario and decides to investigate. Methodically reading early newspaper articles stored on microfiche, he tracks down a possible location of the large egg-shaped diamond found as Father Paradis reported, ‘somewhere near Cobalt’. Keith, along with Rob Towner, a gold and sapphire miner from Montana, travel North to investigate, where they eventually meet Mike Leahy, a prospector and claim staker of note, and Tony Bishop, a hobbyist prospector and dealer of metal detectors
and small-scale mining equipment – gold pans, sluices and the like.
Keith and Mike stake claims near Cobalt and look for the source of the Nip Diamond, as had Tiffany’s, some 85 years before.
Approximately 25 years later Tony Bishop staked a curious perfectly round lake. Now it’s not that unusual to find small round lakes; they are usually ‘kettle lakes’ formed from massive ice chunks calving off of melting glaciers as they are melting and retreating. They are typically found in sandy or sand/gravel areas and often are deep enough with cold clear water to contain trout.
What is unusual is to find a lake like this in a shallow overburden to outcropping expanse of granite, such as the Lorrain Granite Batholith.
The lake on the first Bishop claim is near a major fault system, the Cross Lake Fault, and there have been kimberlites found to the North and Northwest not too far away in the Haileybury/New Liskeard Area. It’s almost a year later that till samples are taken, panned for concentrates, and looked at under the microscope. Over the next winter the tiny colorful grains found are compared to samples at the Mines Office in nearby Kirkland Lake. As well, much of the winter is spent using the internet to research diamonds, kimberlites, and indicator minerals. The following summer more claims and potential targets are staked.
Shortly thereafter Tony recalls Keith’s story of the Nipissing Diamond and with much help from David Crouch (P.Eng.), obtains the original newspaper articles from the early 1900’s about the diamond on the internet.
Father Paradis publicly stated a number of times that the diamond was found near Cobalt. Father Paradis was a seasoned prospector of note, and well versed in the discipline of geology. Note that his sketch clearly shows what appear to be trigons on the stone’s surface. Along with his other attributes, he was an excellent sketch artist and to this day his art work is considered to be very good and collectible. A number of modern articles about the diamond name Father Paradis as the finder (including a public release by MPP David Ramsay), but the historical records mention it was found by a settler, which Father Paradis was himself. If the diamond was indeed found by a different settler, there’s a good possibility that settler would have shown it to Father Paradis, who was the local priest and also a well-known prospector.
Another interesting paper found by David is Mr. Aubin’s ‘Certificate of Registration of Death – District of Nipissing, March 27, 1932’, where curiously his father’s name was written as ‘Jean. B. Aubin (Paradis)’. It seems that the father/husband in a French (Canadian) family also lists their mother’s maiden name. This strongly suggests that Mr. Aubin, the buyer of the Nipissing Diamond, and Father Paradis, who arranged for Aubin to buy the diamond (and possibly found it), were closely related.
David also tracked down a surviving descendant of Mr. Aubin and personally viewed several multi-carat stones cut from the original rough by Tiffany’s. This adds yet more proof of the existence of the Nipissing Diamond. She mentioned that more stones were in the possession of other family members.
“[In September 1882] Father Paradis and a Brother Moffet established a model farm,
…on the Quebec side (just south of …Paradis Bay on the Ontario side”
(Paradis of Temagami, Bruce W. Hodgins (1976), page 7)
There was a farm collective established on Paradis Bay in the late 1800’s, which can be seen on a 1905 map created by the Ontario Bureau of Mines, which includes a wagon road connecting Paradis Bay on Lake Temiskaming to the mining camp at Cobalt. The Paradis Bay road was constructed between 1903 and 1905; the Nipissing diamond was discovered by Father Paradis or someone close to him during the same period of time, and M.P. Aubin had contacted Tiffany’s Co. about the stone not long after.
Please consider the following historical contradiction: George Kunz, foremost American diamond expert, a special agent of the U.S.G.S., and V.P. and Chief Mineralogist of Tiffany’s spent decades personally investigating reports of diamond finds in North America, specifically in the USA while also publicizing the theory that many of these glacially erratic diamonds had their origin in Canada: a world-class diamond is discovered in Canada, the stone is proven and cut by the company Kunz operates, while Tiffany’s also sends a geological expedition to the Cobalt area in 1906 to follow up on the Nipissing Diamond. The Nipissing Diamond exists, and was handled, cut, and investigated by Tiffany’s; however, the ‘Peterborough Diamond’ found more than fifteen years later was the ‘first Canadian diamond’? Concerning the lack of acknowledgement of the Nipissing Diamond as the first diamond discovered in Canada, the simplest conclusion is that its existence was strategically suppressed by Kunz and Tiffany’s. The overwhelming success of the silver mines of the Cobalt area at that time served as a natural disguise to the possibility of such an extraordinary stone being discovered so close to the world’s foremost silver deposit.
Following the tour of the diamond to Parliament with M.P.P. Aubin, its subsequent processing in New York by Tiffany’s, the sketch of the diamond by Paradis, and the newspaper articles by 1906, there is no mention of the Nipissing Diamond for almost a century. The knowledge of the diamond might have been lost until renewed by a Toronto-based PhD. Exploration Geologist named Keith Barron, who researched the story of the Nipissing Diamond and traveled to Cobalt to try to ascertain its source in the Temiskaming District (Nipissing District was subdivided and the region around Cobalt became the district of Temiskaming in 1911). In the 1980s, there was renewed interest in the geology of the area, this time in search of diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes. Soil sampling and geophysics by companies like Cabo, Tres-Or Resources Ltd., DeBeers, and others in addition to exploration by the Ontario Geological Survey, uncovered more than 50 known kimberlite pipes, some diamondiferous, which helped to outline the existence of a Lake Temiskaming Kimberlite Field on the Lake Temiskaming Structural Zone (LTSZ), which appears to have intruded the Canadian Shield in this region approximately 148 million years before present. The Lake Temiskaming Structural Zone continues North through Kirkland Lake’s diamond corridor, and from there to Attawapiskat. Deep sonar has also revealed circular features beneath the water of Lake Temiskaming itself which are inferred to be kimberlite pipes.
Below is a portion of Keith Barron’s 1995 article:
“A Geologist on the Trail of a Canadian Find”
“An exciting new exploration play is unfolding in Canada, far from the frozen tundra of Lac de Gras, in rolling farmland just a day’s drive from Toronto. Diapros, a De Beers subsidiary, had been working quietly in this area in the early 1960s. It was joined by four other companies, who worked through the late 1980s until they abandoned the area for prospects elsewhere. But others have filled the gap, using new techniques and ideas which are yielding sparkling success. I entered the scene in 1991, following up on a reference in a 1906 U.S. Geological Survey Report to a large diamond found in the Nipissing district of Ontario. My research uncovered a jewelry trade article of that year describing the stone as ‘large as a hen’s egg with a rough surface and a yellowish tinge.’ The stone had passed through the hands of a priest, a colonization agent for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Adolphe Aubin, Member of Parliament. Ultimately, it was sent to Tiffany for cutting. The story rang true, especially since the location of the find – on the west side of Lake Timiskaming – matched the location of two kimberlite pipes found 75 years later. The weight was not recorded, but some quick math renders an approximate weight of more than 700 carats. How the discovery escaped world attention was a quirk of history. The find was made near the settlement of Cobalt, where three years earlier, silver veins were
uncovered by railway workers. This led to a silver rush, with all it’s associated wild rumors and con games. The Provincial Geologist, Willett Miller, was badgered by prospectors for glowing endorsements of their claims, prompting him to refuse to visit or write about the area for a full five years. He probably considered reports of a giant diamond to be a hoax. The Montreal Herald reported that Tiffany sent geologists to investigate the area, but it’s quite possible they decided against sharing their information with the press, particularly with a silver mining tent city down the road. There is, however, strong evidence that the stone was real. The granddaughter of the original owner, Nicole Aubin, claims that her sister owns one of five stones ‘cut from a large rough diamond owned by her grandfather’.”
Barron, K. M. – A Geologist on the Trail of a Canadian Find (Dec 3, 1995). Accessed online at
We know that Tiffany’s would go to great lengths and expense in its search for diamonds in North America; however, even with this determination and experience they would not send a group of knowledgeable employees from New York to the vast and wild country of Northern Ontario, circa 1906, without a goal and some idea of where to look.
Father Paradis was an experienced prospector and a shrewd dealer in business matters (he regularly butted heads with church and government officials while trying to keep his parish funded so far from the head office in Montreal (reference Hodgins, B.W. (1976): Paradis of Temagami: The story of Charles Paradis, 1848-1926, Northern Priest, Colonizer and Rebel. Pub by The Highway Bookshop, Cobalt ON, 1976), and knew full well about mining options and agreements as undoubtedly did Mr. Aubin, who as an M.P.P. with the Ontario government would have been savvy in exploiting advantageous knowledge. Tiffany’s had a history of sending geologists, with ample funding to purchase and make deals whenever a diamond was located. That their vice-president and chief diamond exploration geologist postulated and believed that most of the diamonds found in the U.S.A. originated somewhere in Northern Canada must have greatly piqued their interest even further.
If Father Paradis found the diamond and sold it to his relative, Mr. Aubin, they definitely would have gone back for another look. If it was an unknown settler who found and sold the diamond, Father Paradis would have at least attempted to be shown the location of the find (whoever found the diamond had trusted Paradis enough to let him possess it long enough to make a detailed sketch), as would the buyer Aubin require/negotiate to be taken to that location with financial compensation to the
settler of course.
With his prospector background Father Paradis undoubtedly would have put forward some kind of percentage agreement to the finder if the location were revealed and more diamonds were located. Indeed, why would a settler not confide in a priest? (at least in 1906 they probably would have). When Tiffany’s got involved, they definitely would have made an irresistible deal with Aubin to be taken to where the diamond was found to try to ascertain the source. In this light, sending in a contingent of diamond experts and geologists to the railway’s end in Cobalt, Northern Ontario makes sense. Perhaps if the brilliant Kunz had been sent to Cobalt instead of the Crater of Diamonds in Arkansas in
1906, the history of Cobalt and Ontario mining history might be vastly different.
Next, we travel to 2017 and another story unfolds, the ‘Story of the Trench’, as first published as part of Assessment Work Report on Claim L4282142 dated June 6, 2018.
Story of the Trench
Approximately 3km to the east of legacy claim 4282142 lies a steep high hill that runs north-south for a considerable distance with Hwy 567 and Lake Timiskaming on the other side except for a small valley through which Lake Timiskaming can be viewed at several locations, near Cedar Pond and Paradis Pond. (A ski hill lies a short distance to the NE of Paradis and Cedar Pond on this hill.)
When I first noticed this view of Lake Temiskaming, and after driving Hwy 567 and utilizing a Topography Map, I realized I was seeing Paradis Bay. I reckoned that with the discovery of silver in 1903-1904, a farming community in Paradis Bay and others in Quebec nearby would have wanted to ship fresh produce, meat, etc. to the many hungry prospectors in Cobalt. About then I recalled the discovery of an 800-carat diamond found near Cobalt as first told to me by Keith Barron.
The most direct route from Paradis Bay would be a road through my claims. I envisioned an east-west road from Paradis Bay between the lakes on legacy claims 4273040 and 4282189 (~600m) apart, and to the southeast of Goodwin Lake. and continuing from there northwest to the top of Chown Lake where the road would then trend towards Cobalt. Many recent articles (including one by our MPP David Ramsey) credited Father Paradis with finding the large diamond. This led me to wonder if the diamond might have been found while building a (hypothetical) road from Paradis Bay at the time of the diamond’s discovery first reported in 1906.
I was then and afterwards getting excellent KIM results from sampling below but not off-ice of the two lakes mentioned which added even more interest. Then sometime after, my son, Graeme was looking through his extensive map collection and on one map from 1905 (Miller, (1905)) there was a wagon road shown from Paradis Bay to just below the lake on 4273040 where it angled up towards the southeast end of Goodwin Lake and passed west of Paradis Pond. It then continued northwest to the top of Chown Lake where it turned west to the newly built rail spur at Kerr Lake. To be included on the 1905 map, the road would have been under construction in 1903-1904 and being used by 1905.
This is especially interesting as it would have been within the time frame in which the diamond was reported being found by a settler and purchased by Mr. Aubin. With this in mind, I drew a line down-ice of Paradis Pond to where it met the road from Paradis Bay and re plotted that to Google Earth and recorded the UTM coordinates. I then planned a till sampling traverse for my son Graeme to that location and others in the general area that he deemed interesting.
When he arrived at the location, he could see a ribbon nearby from one of my previous till sampling excursions. This general area is in a trough-like feature extending down-ice from Paradis Pond. Graeme found the ground a bit wet there and hard to get a good sample, so he moved uphill a short way to the east to get a dry till sample closer to my predetermined coordinates. At the top of the gentle ~20’ rise, he ‘stumbled’ across a trench. It was obviously very old, ~50’ long, oriented due north-south with two trees growing in it and much humus infill. Realizing the potential importance of the trench being where material glaciated from Paradis Pond meets the road, he took several samples from the trench and then spent the remainder of the day looking for other signs of the wagon road or human activity, before returning to the truck.
When Graeme and I later returned, the ferns were a solid carpet waist deep, the trench was not visible from 5 meters away, unlike Graeme’s first trip in early spring. We resampled the trench and spent more time searching and found a small dug pit a short distance north of the trench which we also sampled. Directly north, a sample was taken which is possibly from the same ridge.
Finding the trench was particularly significant due to its being in non-descript gravelly-sandy till, surrounded by the Lorrain Granite Batholith. There are no outcrops within ~200 m, and there are no silver mines or known mineralized prospects up-ice of this area.
Digging into the till in the trench’s location is no easy task, and after talking to geologists such as Doug Robinson, P.Eng (who worked in Agnico’s Temiskaming Silver Mine for many years) the labour expenditure to build a trench at that location makes no sense. Unless the quarry was not silver and Cobalt, but instead perhaps a diamond. Both Paradis and Cedar Pond have been flown over with a magnetometer on a drone and the results 3-D modeled.
These combined results helped RJK Explorations decide to option the Bishop Properties in Lorrain and Gillies Limit, and as of March 1, 2019 a drill is on location at Paradis Pond to drill into the mag anomaly.
Learn more about the Nipissing diamond and RJK’s involvement in the search for the famed Nipissing Diamond in this short video produced by RJK and Insidexploration.
We also had the opportunity to talk with Tony about his exploration efforts and his search for the source of The 800 carat Nipissing Diamond at the beginning of 2019. We highly recommend you take the time to watch this as his findings have paved the way for RJK’s success.
Get a closer look at the Tiffany Trench is this in the field video featuring Graeme Bishop
Note* Additional research has been done on the Nipissing Diamond by RJK, who has produced a short video which can be found @ https://www.rjkexplorations.com/#single/0
For more information please visit https://insidexploration.com/rjx/
Glenn Kasner, President of RJK Exploration
Mobile: (705) 568-7567
Web Site: https://www.rjkexplorations.com/
Company Information: Tel: (705) 568-7445