How Love—and a Little Luck—Helped This Man Find the Perfect Diamond for His Fiancée

The odds of finding the perfect gem for a custom engagement ring were slim. But on he went, fueled by a big dream and plenty of love.

Christian Liden was in eighth grade when he hatched a grandiose plan to create a personalized engagement ring for his future fiancée. Never mind that he didn’t even have a girlfriend. If a natural diamond could take billions of years to form, he figured he could be patient.

Liden decided that he would not pick out a ring from a jeweler’s case like most other people. Instead, he would go into the wild to find his own materials: the diamond, the gold, the accompanying gemstones. Everything.

“I’ve always been a rock hound, so to me, this is the perfect way to get an engagement ring,” said Liden, who lives in Poulsbo, Washington, near Seattle. “Actually, it’s the only way. I couldn’t imagine not making it myself.”

Last year, Liden decided that it was finally time to put his plan into action. He and his girlfriend, Desirae Klokkevold, had been together for more than five years.
“I knew that I wanted to marry her, and I also wanted to surprise her,” says Liden, who works for his family’s excavating business.

A special trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park

So, in May 2021, Liden told Klokkevold that he and Josh Tucker, his best friend since sixth grade, were heading out on a camping trip to Yellowstone. He and Tucker made their way instead to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, which is set on an eroded volcanic crater. The park is one of the few places in the world where the public is welcome to search for real diamonds—and keep what they find.

About 33,000 diamonds have been found at Crater of Diamonds since it opened in 1972. Most are fairly small. Only 1 in 10,000 park visitors is lucky enough to find a diamond that weighs a carat or more. Liden knew that the odds of finding anything spectacular were minuscule. Still, he was up for the challenge.

He had started panning for gold around his home state years earlier and now had enough to make the ring band. On the way to Crater of Diamonds, Liden and Tucker had stopped in Helena, Montana, to mine for sapphires. There they found a couple of small beauties to add to the diamond they hoped to score. In Arkansas, the pair paid $10 each to get into the park and got to work. They spent almost three days sifting through the volcanic dirt.

The perfect diamond for the perfect proposal

On the third morning, Liden suddenly spotted something reflecting light in the gravel on his sifting screen: a shiny pebble a bit larger than a pea. “I was so excited that I started shaking, and I called Josh over to take a look,” he says.

Tucker let out a whoop when he saw the stone. “It was oily and shiny, and we both just knew it was a diamond,” he says. “We freaked out a little bit—we couldn’t believe it.”

Illustration of a shovel

The two quickly took the find to the park office, where it was confirmed that Liden had found a 2.2-carat ­triangular yellow diamond. Similarly sized diamonds go for $2,500 to $20,000 per carat, depending on color, cut and clarity. But the value wasn’t what was important to Liden. “To me, it was priceless,” he says. “I’d found Desirae’s diamond.”

When he returned to Poulsbo, ­Liden confessed to his girlfriend that he hadn’t been in Yellowstone. “Then I pulled out the diamond and got on my knee,” he says. “I told Desirae that I’d like to design a ring for her if she’d marry me.”

She was stunned. “I knew that he was going to propose someday,” Klokkevold says, “but I certainly didn’t expect this.” She said yes.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest