The Kechemeche were part of the Lenni Lenape Council and were the original inhabitants of the southern part of Cape May County. The Lenape were the first settlers in the county and found the quartz stones washed up on the beaches in what is now Cape May Point. The shiny pebbles were highly regarded and thought to have powers of good fortune, success and wellbeing for those who held them. It is believed that they were used for gifts and trade with other tribes and later with settlers who arrived in the late 1600s.
The story of one of the larger Cape May Diamonds was that of King Nummy, the last chief of the Lenni Lanape tribe, who presented it to Christopher Leaming as a token of their friendship and loyalty. Leaming sent the stone to Antwerp, Holland and it was cut and polished into a beautiful 20 caret emerald cut “diamond”.
The Cape May Diamonds were once rough pieces of quartz that broke off the Pennsylvania Mountains in the Delaware Water Gap, traveled down the Delaware River into the Delaware Bay and were smoothed as they tumbled along the riverbed on their 200 mile trek, washing ashore in southern Cape May. Their journey took thousands of years to reach the beach of Cape May Point and Sunset Beach.
The stones found today are predominately small pebble size, and can be polished and faceted to resemble a diamond and set in gold, silver or platinum. Quartz is a semi-precious stone and measures eight on the hardness scale. The quartz comes in many sizes, shapes and colors but the clear stones are the most sought after by beach combers. It is fairly easy to find a ‘diamond’ and hunting them has become a tradition for locals and vacationers who head to Sunset Beach in search of one of the treasures of the sea. Kids and adults are on equal footing when it comes to finding Cape May Diamonds. The best time to find a “diamond” is after a storm. For those who are not lucky enough to find a one, they are for sale at the Sunset Beach Shop in Cape May Point and Cape May Diamond jewelry can be purchased at other locations in Cape May.
The largest faceted Cape May Diamond, weighing in at 1,800 carets, along with several smaller ones are on display at the Cape May County Museum located at 504 Route 9, North, in Cape May Court House.