This article was originally published in Kentucky Living Magazine on March 28, 2017.
The story of a national hoax rivaling the likes of a modern-day Ponzi scheme began in Kentucky nearly 150 years ago. It would involve the founder of Tiffany & Co. and, later, the captain of the Love Boat.
“In 1870 and 1871, Elizabethtown resident Philip Arnold traveled to Europe, where he purchased a large quantity of rough diamonds and other gemstones,” begins Jessica Gowen, communications director at the Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau. “He and his cousin, John Slack, then proceeded to plant them in the Colorado backcountry.”
Arnold next drew several moneyed moguls into his plot, including Charles Tiffany, Baron von Rothschild, editor Horace Greeley, and a couple of former Civil War Union generals. They formed a mining and investment company, and the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872 was officially underway.
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