How to Find a Lost Ring

Metal Detecting for Lost Wedding Rings
Metal Detecting for Lost Wedding Rings

Meaningful Metal

I belong to a metal detecting club. Our members often receive frantic phone calls from betrothed young ladies devasted by the loss of a shining new diamond engagement ring, newly married men discovering that frisbees, footballs and centrifugal force cause wedding bands to fly long distances, or swimmers discovering that, yes, fingers do shrink in cold water. Sadly, some calls come from people who have lost weight due to illness, so their rings slip off during yard work or taking walks. In all of these cases, the emotional value of the rings is much greater than their monetary worth. Luckily, experienced detectorists have a strong success rate: we love a challenge and will do whatever it takes to recover them. My success rate is over 80% both on land and in water! We enjoy restoring the symbol of a wedding promise,the excitement of graduation day, and other meaningful memories.

Engagement ring found in swamp - 12" of water Lost while handling a northern pike
Engagement ring found in swamp - 12" of water Lost while handling a northern pike

Progressive steps to finding lost rings

However rewarding these recoveries may be to us, it's better that the loss never happens at all, or, if it does, that the owner finds it themselves as soon as possible. This lessens the risk of the ring being kept by strangers or trampled. Here are some tips I've learned in 10 years of finding hundreds of lost rings:

Prevention: When swimming, leave your rings and necklaces at home. If you must bring your wedding ring, add it to your car key chain while swimming or lock it in a vehicle glove box. Put them in the exact same place every time. Men - Do not put jewelry or your car key in that tiny pocket inside your swim trunks! (It's called the "twilight zone" pocket because that's where things end up almost every time.) Don't put them on the corner of your beach towel because many people forget and flip the towel, sending jewelry flying. (Gold has mass, which translates to velocity. Flipped rings have been found 35 feet from a beach towel.) When doing yard work, wear the type of work gloves that have rubber palms and cloth backs. They breathe, they are comfortable, they keep hands clean, and they are snug enough to keep your rings on your fingers when throwing leaves into a pile, digging, or other vigorous hand movements.

First steps when a ring is lost: Check the inside of your glove fingers and your pockets. Relax, retrace your steps, and think about what you were doing with your hands: Throwing leaves and sticks, digging with hand tools, putting on lotion, or washing hands are top times when rings slip off. Look carefully in those spots. (Gutting a deer is another instance, but we won't go there.)

Renting a metal detector is expensive and probably a waste of money because most people do not know how to use them. (Warning! Metal detecting is addictive.) If you do try using one, turn the "discrimination" setting down very low. Then, the detector will not ignore iron, but it won't ignore gold, either. Most people turn discrimination up to eliminate the "noise" from iron and unintentionally make the detector "blind" to gold. Gold is mixed with other metals, which makes it harder to detect. Platinum rings can display very low numbers in the same range as foil. So wave the coil over a similar ring to learn the particular tone that it makes. If the detector has a digital readout like the Garrett AT Pro or AT Gold, remember the number. Go to the likely places it was lost, start a search pattern, waving the search coil back and forth about an inch above the surface, and listen for that same, repeated beeping sound. Use a dull screwdriver or soil knife to probe grass or dirt. For sand I prefer the inexpensive plastic trowels used in gardening because they only cost a dollar and they are non-magnetic. It's easy to scoop up some dirt, grass, or leaves and wave it over the coil. (The coil's field goes both over and under it.) If it beeps, carefully check the scoop contents. (If your little dog's stomach causes beeps when it walks over the coil, your search will be delayed for a while.)

If a small spot is to be searched, drive a stake in the ground to mark the center, and make ever-widening circles around it. To systematically search a large area, a personal GPS like the kind geocachers use can be helpful. Set it to track where you've searched, and "paint" the entire area on the tracking screen. For a less high-tech approach, grid the area with string and golf tees, and search each square separately. (If you find other rings, consider them a bonus, as long as a body is not attached.)

Then, contact the nearest pawn shops and antique stores, describe your lost jewelry, and provide a picture of it if possible.

If these steps do not work, look online for the closest metal detecting club. They are located all over the country. Don't hesitate - you won't be the first person to call them. Club officers will either respond directly or refer another member to you. When they arrive, show them where they are permitted to search, and where the gas lines and buried electrical lines, if any, are located. (Detector sensitivity many have to be turned down to compensate; poking a screwdriver into live voltage could end the search prematurely.)

If the ring is found, it's good form to send a thank-you letter to the club or finder. The club member gets to be recognized by other members for helping the community, and it makes everyone smile. So, contact me at Green Bay Metal Detectors with your story, even if the ring or other metal treasure was lost long ago, in water, or buried in strange places. We detectorists are always looking for a challenge!


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Comments 16 comments

Thank You 4 years ago

I wanted to pass along my personal thanks to you Tom. For those of you that don't know, I received a call from Tom advising me that he had found a ring that may have belonged to my deceased mother of 26 years. I arrived at Tom's house and he showed me my mother's high school ring that he had found while searching in the area. He had gone through the story of how he located me. The incredible amount of honor and character that he displayed in finding, researching and then presenting my mothers ring to me was moving. Thank you again Tom for everything. I have a keepsake for the rest of my life and you are deeply intertwined in the story. Thanks Mark S.

Mrs4444 4 years ago

Tom, this is great advice. I enjoyed the story, the comment before mine, and the photo! I can see why you enjoy metal detecting.

42N 4 years ago

I read your ring find through your sister's link. I too have a metal detector and have found interesting things over the years. Your story has reinvigorated me to dust it off and head on out again.

TalkinTom profile image

TalkinTom 4 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin Author

I'm glad you liked it. It's the best hobby I've ever had, even over fishing. It's always good to return a ring to somebody or to their family.

TalkinTom profile image

TalkinTom 4 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin Author

Try joining a club. You can learn a lot from other detectorists.

Damian 4 years ago

I lost my ring today 1/30/ around 3:30 to 5:00pm cst in irving/dallas texas. I am a locksmith and rekeying a friends busnees on 3 different door . commercial blmgd. and basically a 'gold tarnished concretye graval' area. I know to statrt w /my eyes, but have bad nvision due to diabetes soo.....tomrrow when the sun comes up I will begin the hunt for my wedding ring .....any hints on to how to fing nthis ring? Thanks Damian.

TalkinTom profile image

TalkinTom 4 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin Author

Sure, Damian. If you can, get a young person to help you who has very sharp vision. Before looking, remember where you did the most work with your hands, especially if you got them wet. Assume the ring rolled when it dropped, and start at the very maximum distance it could be, then add a few yards. Work your way in towards your work area using a "grid" system and thoroughly search each grid. If it's just concrete and gravel with no plants, it will most likely be visible. If there are grass and weeds, then a detector may help unless there is rebar or other metal under the surface. Good luck! Wish I was there to help you. Snowed in here in Green Bay!

Damian 4 years ago

Here in Dallas it is sunny, aliitle windy and warming up from 38 to about 70......which I was there to see the snow.....well I am off to Irving TX, about a 30 min. drive to spend sometime searching for my wedding ring......I will take your advise and begin from a few yards away from each of the 3 doors I worked on and look, pray the whole time until I find it. I have all the faith that I will and I am not 1 to give up. Thanks Tom for your thoughtfullness and I will let you know when I find it. Kinda glad it is not lost in the snow though lol.....

Melissa Rod 3 years ago

Do you come to New York?

TalkinTom profile image

TalkinTom 3 years ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin Author

It depends on the situation. Go to my website at Green Bay Metal Detectors LLC for my contact information. I would be glad to discuss options with you.

TheRingFinders 2 years ago

Over 1550 lost Rings Found & Returned... Valued at over $3.6 Million

Contact a member of ''The Ring Finders''

Your 2nd Chance to find what you thought was lost forever!

lynn cherry 2 years ago

Hi, I'm just looking through your site, I live in New York City and I my ring slipped off my finger approximately 2 months ago. I believe it may have fell into the trash. I am trying to find a ring finder who may be willing to try and take a chance.

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The Ring Finders 2 years ago from Worldwide

Unfortunately if you're talking about trying to find a ring in the city dump in New York after 2 months I'm sorry to say you'd have no chance... Because of all the metal that is thrown away into the trash metal detectors would be useless. Sorry for the bad news!

Sarah 2 years ago

I appreciate your kind and gueorens advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

Kristie L 22 months ago

I lost my engagement ring about 1 month ago inside my house, it was just sitting on the kitchen bench and then it was gone. This ring means so much to me as it has my Nanas and mothers diamonds in it. Would we be able to use a metal detector inside?

TalkinTom profile image

TalkinTom 22 months ago from Green Bay, Wisconsin Author

Hi Kristie,

Yes, a metal detector can be used inside. However, it would have to be an advanced model such as the Whites V3i. They can be programmed to tune out electrical fields, house wiring, and so on. I have spoken with a detectorist who successfully found a ring inside a house using this model.

Contact the closest metal detecting club and see if anyone can do this.

Tom Caldie

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