How to Find a Lost Ring
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.
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!