The soil was muddy, with water somewhere; wood and treelogs formed the only footpaths. Pieces of plastic and some leaves offered only very little protection against the tropical heat. Dozens of workers, men and women, worked hard, looking for diamonds in the fields of Cempaka. Some dug holes as deep at wells. Others got baskets of muddy clay from the already created deep holes. Motorized pumps brought up water from the deep. The dug-up clay was dumped in a wooden sluice and mixed by water by two men.
The mix was poured in wooden bowls, which were then turned round. The lighter particles collected at the outsides, while the more heavy parts - diamonds? - stayed in the inside part. This was kept and inspected later on in the center.
I managed to walk to one of the stalls, looking for a cold beer, but I had to do it with a warm cup of tea. A diamond seller told me that the groups of workers consisted of ten to 30 people. Everyone receives the same amount of money for a diamond found, after percentages are taken for the pump and the supplier of the tools. Calculated over a longer period, these workers earned about US$ 2,50 a day in the late 20th century. Besides that there was a chance of finding a large gemstone, which brings in an extra payment.
The burning market
'What is the biggest diamond ever found', I wanted to know. The trader looked to the circle of interesting people which had gathered by now. A guy ran away to get someone. He came back with Haji Samlan, a seemingly strong man, middle-aged with a happy and open character. He looked just as tired as the others. I offered him a cup of tea and repeated my question. He took a sip, watched at me and picked up a chunk of soil, the size of a birds-egg. 'It was this size', he said. Pointing at his big toe,'or something like that'. That was the size of the rough diamond, which was smaller after processing: 166,75 carat.
The man which found him was Haji Sukri. He worked at the bottom of a twelve meter deep trench, deeper than most other. Most of the times, shafts of a depth over ten meters run full with water, which causes digging to get impossible. Sukri picked up the stone and put it in his pocket. He didn't even think of it to being a diamond. Maybe a semi-gemstone, but that was all. Samlan remembered the exact time. Thursday 26 August 1965 ar noon. Why he knew that so sure? 'Simply', he said,' because it was the same time the nearby market in Martapure burned down to the ground - the price for finding this diamond. Everytime a diamond is found, a building will burn down, that's the story here.'
'Three times sacred'
Surki came out the well; he went for a cup of tea. He showed the stone to a friend from his team, which also hopes it would be a semi-gemstone. After that Samlan got to see the stone. He knew it right away: a diamond! At if he were in a trance, he grabbed the stone and runned - followed by the others - to his home to store it safely. 'Diamond! Diamond!', he yelled.
Diamond traders came to Samlans house and identified the stone. He was bigger than everyone of them had seen before. The villages poored in to see the miracle with their own eyes; soon a queue with a length of more than one km had formed. Samlan told that he remembered it still very well. His head was empty; he could hardly sleep. We woke up often that night, and seemed to float above his bed. Then he dropped down and slept again. As if he were in a deep trance. 'In that way', he ended the story,'he was found: the diamond which is now known as Trisakti: "Three times sacred"'.
Politics and diamond
Later that same afternoon, a delegation from Cempaka brought the Trisakti to the nearby city of Martapura to show it to the bupati, the regional leader. The police-chef (probably hoping for promotion) thought that the diamond should be brought to the president. Thus, the stone was brought to Jakarta the next day, accompanied by eight local VIP';s and two miners. Samlan also was envited, but he fainted at the airport, because he didn't want to fly. The next day he succeeded to enter the plane after all to go to Jakarta with four other members.
26 August 1965 was not the most ideal day to find a big diamond in Indonesia. The government had to deal with the aftermath of a coup and was too busy meeting the miners. Eventually the miners got a payment, which was spread over the crew. Samlan could just build a new house of his payment.
Six months later the government paid his hajj to Mecca, together with his family. Just before they returned, but received another small amount. As soon as the diamond was processed in the Netherlands, they would get their money, they were told.
The following year, small groups of the excavation crew flew to Jakarta at own cost to find out what had happened to Trisakti and their part of the profit. Every time they didn't find an answer, and eventually they ran out of money. They never received their part of the profit.
The crowd was still listening when Samlan ended his story. It was time ti return to the mudd. Who knows another Trisakti was waiting to be found. If that is the case, the men and women which are hard workers, and have faith, they will find them. Once!