One early summer afternoon the phone rang. Scrap Iron answered and I listened to the conversation. A lady was calling about a lost piece of jewelry. Cool, I thought, another recovery job. I really like those. They give us a reason to get out of the office and into the field. Plus, my recovery rate had been really good as of late…even in sticky situations. Most recently with an underwater recovery of a wedding ring under a bridge, in a large un-metal detectable arboretum. As Scrap Iron wrapped up the call he swiveled his chair around and looked at me. I smiled, “Recovery job?”
He wasn’t smiling, “This may be a tough one,” he said. He relayed her story. Apparently the woman had been mowing her lawn on a riding lawn mower. Riding lawn mowers serve one purpose: To mow huge lawns. This was about a 2-3 acre lot. She had finished a large portion of the yard and decided to head towards the rear of the property to tackle the more difficult portion. This part of the lawn was a little more grown in than the rest. A large, heavily grown in, unused garden sat very close to the Northwestern edge of the property. Between it and the fence was a narrow strip of lawn just large enough for the riding lawn mower to mow a clear path. The western fence row was being crowded by trees and shrubs from the neighbor’s yard, which had not been maintained. This left branches of various bushes hanging over onto the narrow strip between the fence and the garden.
Since it was only one tiny strip the lady decided to forge through and simply brush the branches out of her way as she quickly mowed the strip of grass. As she darted through the branches the unthinkable happened. The branches fought back. She pressed through as the branches wrapped around her neck simultaneously stripping her left ear of a 1 karat diamond and platinum stud earring. As Scrap Iron told the story, the smile fell from my face. “Stud earring?” I asked. “Lawn mower?” “2 acre lawn?” “Yeah, this may be a tough one,” I agreed.
You see, any metal detectorist knows that finding a small stud earring is no easy task. The majority of the earring is typically a gem. Gems are not metallic. Metal detectors do not pick them up. The remainder of the earring is composed of very little metal…wire basically, and not much of it. Hardly any surface area and very little density. They are uber difficult to pick up with any metal detector. However, when someone loses something of value (sentimental or cash) and calls you to help them find it, you have to give it a shot. Besides, we we have top of the line metal detectors and our recent recovery track record had been great. The Garrett AT Gold is specifically made to find small pieces of metal. We took it, the AT Pro and a Tesoro Lobo (another formidable small nugget finder). Still, this would be a challenging job.
We arrived on the property and met the husband. He relayed the story again and showed us where they suspected the earring was. Fortunately for us they had a good idea of (about) where the earring had been stripped from her ear. It was an area about 40 feet by 10-15 feet at the thickest end. Fortunately they had the other earring. This allowed us to do an air test to see how the earring would sound on our metal detectors. This is where the task began to seem near impossible. On all of the detectors, the earring rang up like a very small piece of foil and you had to be almost right on top of it to get a reading. The irregularity of what little metal there was caused the machine’s signals to bounce around a little.
Now, if you are out in the middle of the desert, slowly working your way around listening for every small hint of a signal while looking for small gold nuggets, you realize how hard it is to find small pieces of metal like this. Discrimination is virtually impossible. But in a lot located in the middle of the city that has been occupied for 100+ years, it was virtually impossible. Just like in the deser scenario, you would have to look at every little signal…and there were plenty of them. The property owner had already rented a metal detector and searched. The detector they rented was a very low-end model. It did not even register the earring they still had. That is why they called us. There were signals everywhere. This was going to be a tough job indeed.
Scrap Iron and I spent about 45 minutes searching the suspected area with no avail. I even resorted to crawling on my hands and knees with my Pro Pointer hoping to pick up a signal with this method. No luck and it killed my knees. Tyler arrived and we took a short break. It was sweltering hot and humid out. We were soaked in sweat. We showed him site and told him the story of the loss. “Wow. This is like a needle in a haystack….did you check the mower?” We had not. We had the owner pull the mower out of the shed and we thoroughly searched it. No dice. We told the owner the situation was looking dire, but we will look a little longer. He pitched in and began visually searching and so did we.
Right then I saw something shiny. Tyler saw me react to the item which was right at his feet just beneath a clump of grass. I only saw it because of the angle I was in relation to the clump of grass. I zeroed in on the item and went for it saying, “Look here.” It was not the earring but it was the back of the earring. How I saw it is truly beyond me. But this find gave us all hope we may find the actual earring. The owner was there and he was amazed we found the back (this was something I was not expecting either). It was enough to lift our spirits and keep us on the job. He headed back towards the house and I told him we would stick to it for a while longer. We looked for another 30 minutes with no luck.
Drenched from head to toe in sweat, and losing momentum quickly, I sat down in the spot we were searching and said, “If I were this lady I would grab a cold drink, sit right here, and do this.” I sat there sifting through the grass and clover. Removing clumps of clover by hand to clear the way for my visual search. The metal detectors most likely picked up the signal of the earring at some point or another, but differentiating it from every other signal was near impossible. And with the time you spent going up and down it seemed to me to be more productive to search visually. Scrap Iron was over in the garden right near where I found the back of the earring in the yard. The reasoning being perhaps the mower had launched the earring away from the narrow strip of grass and into the garden. This went on for another 10-15 minutes when I saw it. A glimmer. It is something that the human eye is attuned to picking up. Gold, platinum, silver, diamonds. Once you get your “eyes right” they will be drawn to it like a moth to a flame. My heart jumped. This seemed like a dream. Almost impossible. At this point I had truly lost hope that we would find it. But we did. “Travis, look.” He did not turn around and probably didn’t think it was possible that I had found the earring either. “Travis, look!”
He nonchalantly looked over his shoulder. I held the earring up like a trophy. He sprung up and came over offering a celebratory high five.”Good job man!” This was unbelievable. We were both amazed. After about an hour and a half of looking we emerged successfully. We were completely stoked and, frankly, surprised. We had both, I think, lost hope of a successful recovery only 30 minutes ago. But we persisted and prevailed.
I snapped a quick picture of the find. We grabbed our gear and headed up to the garage where the man was working on cars. He casually looked up, “Calling it quits guys?” He clearly had doubted the success of recovery too.
I replied, “I think we are going to wrap it up…” and paused for effect. He nodded with an indication that he understood the difficulty of the task. I continued, “…but only because we found it!” I think he almost fainted. He was beside himself and could not believe we found not only the earring but also the back (which still surprises me).
He was extremely thankful. “I cannot believe it. Thank you guys SO much! I think I am going to wait to tell my wife until she gets home…let her sweat little.” He went on to tell us a story of when she had lost a large tennis bracelet at the lake. At that time he had to hire a diver to find it. Apparently she loves her jewelry and always wears it. I kindly suggested she should remove it while doing yard work. This is when, according to my experience, most people lose their jewelry…and when at the lake.
“Well, hang onto our number. You may end up being our best customer,” Scrap Iron replied which generated a chuckle among the group.
One thing I learned from Chris over at The Ring Finders is that the reward is only a part of the recovery mix. Don’t let this be the focus of your search and don’t get greedy. He has done recovery jobs for many thousands of dollars and some for a loaf of banana bread. Often, it is better to let the owner set the price. Frequently you will get more than you would have asked for. Besides, without knowing the cost of the lost item, it is hard for you to determine a fair price at times. I assumed this pair of earrings to be anywhere from $2,000-3,000 maybe more. As he reached for his wallet I told him, “In terms of our reward, you can pay us what you think our service was worth.”
He looked at us and said, “Is a couple hundred dollars fair?”
“Yep.” Scrap Iron and I replied simultaneously. In all honestly we would have been happy with half. We left the job site a couple hundred dollars richer and much wealthier in spirit. It is always a good feeling to help someone in need while at the same time earning a fair wage in doing it.