(CNN) — A Washington man dreamed his whole life of finding a raw diamond to create a one-of-a-kind engagement ring for his future spouse, but he didn't know that it would actually become a reality.
Christian Liden told CNN that the idea of mining his own gems for an engagement ring was planted in his head in middle school, but he had no idea how to accomplish the task. As he got older, he said he discovered just how difficult it is to find raw gems in the US.
However, when Liden's coworker told him about Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas three years ago, he knew his dream could be a reality. He had been dating his girlfriend, Desirae, for two years, and knew the ring would be for her.
"That's when I started really planning the trip and planning to actually go out and do this -- finding out it was possible to actually do it -- so I started doing research on diamonds," Liden said.
He watched videos from those who were successful in finding diamonds at the park, and tried to get as much information as he could before deciding to plan his trip. His friend Josh, who has known about Liden's dream from the beginning, decided to join him on the adventure.
The 2.20 carat gem is the largest that's been found at the park since last October, when a visitor from Fayetteville, Arkansas discovered a 4.49-carat yellow diamond.
Arkansas State Parks
As they planned, Liden built their own mining equipment while his girlfriend was at work, so he wouldn't have to explain the real purpose behind the road trip.
"She knew I was going on a road trip, but she didn't know what we were doing. I told her we would be visiting some state parks and some national parks, but other than that, she didn't know we were going to find gemstones," he said.
Liden planned to propose to Desirae when he got back, and didn't want to tip her off.
On May 1, Liden and Josh started their adventure and made their first stop in Montana to mine sapphires, just in case they ended up empty handed when they got to the park.
After a successful first dig and a day in Yellowstone, the two arrived in Arkansas on May 7, hoping to find a needle in a haystack.
The next two days were unsuccessful, even after trying to get to untouched material. The next day they decided to try a different approach and just mine the surface of the gravel.
"It was towards the end of the day, it was the last two carts... and we just started throwing materials in the screens," he said.
Then something amazing happened: When he flipped his tool there on top was a yellow diamond weighing over two carats.
"I started shaking right away -- I was shaking so bad. I waved my buddy over... and I moved my hand and he saw it," Liden said.
He was in such a state of shock, he let Josh grab the gem and put it in a ziplock bag because it was afraid he was going to drop it.
"I never expected anything like that. I was just hoping to find one -- just one small one -- just so I could put it on the ring and say 'hey, I mined that diamond out,'' Liden said.
Christian and his new fiancee' Desirae after he proposed.
Courtesy Christian Liden
They immediately went to the discovery center to report what they had found, and the staff confirmed the size of the yellow diamond.
The 2.20 carat gem is the largest that's been found at the park since last October, when a visitor from Fayetteville, Arkansas, discovered a 4.49-carat yellow diamond, according to a news release from Diamond Crater State Park.
"Mr. Liden's diamond is light yellow, with a triangular shape and a sparkling, metallic luster. Like most diamonds from the park, it contains a few inclusions, making it one-of-a-kind," Assistant Superintendent Dru Edmonds said.
The day after Liden arrived back, he and his girlfriend went mushroom hunting, and during their walk in the woods Liden pulled out the diamond and proposed. She said yes.
The two are looking for someone to design and build the ring composed of the gems Liden mined on the trip. He said they aren't in any hurry.
"It all worked out just right," Liden said.