Three years ago, Andrew’s grandfather passed down the family gold ring. Fifty years before that, Andrew’s great grandfather, Ben, passed the ring to his grandson. The family heirloom ring began its journey in 1897, and it was up to me to help Andrew retrieve the lost treasure.
During my hour-long drive to Hamden, Connecticut, I tried to imagine the situation. I’ve never had a call like this in all the years I’ve been finding lost rings. There are many times where I get a story about a lost ring, and once I arrive, the investigation leads to an entire set of new circumstances. After all, how does a ring go missing after being hidden under a rock for safekeeping? I knew the lost ring was bordering a pond, so my instinct kept telling me it somehow ended up in the water. My next fear was the ring being inaccessible, and the bowels of earth swallowed it up for good. There was no telling what I might find.
Andrew went for a jog and realized he was still wearing his heirloom wedding band. Exercise is a common way jewelry is lost, so, understandably, Andrew removed the ring. After all, I remove my ring and place it in temporary hiding while landscaping. The rock where he hid the ring was at the top of a bank with a 45° slope to a pond’s edge. The bank was also part of a driveway lined with many other rocks and boulders. The stones varied in size, some as small as a softball, some as large as a car. Andrew took off his ring and placed it under one of the little rocks. He immediately heard the clink, clink, of the ring slipping into an erosion line and disappearing underneath an adjacent boulder. At 175 pounds per cubic foot, boulders are too big to move by hand. In the absence of heavy machinery, the only option was to try to dig. Because of the 45° slope, the ring kept sliding deeper and deeper underneath the boulder as Andrew attempted to hand-dig. Andrew reached as far as his arm would allow, and there was still space in the bottom of the cavern. Losing hope, Andrew had no idea if the ring had already been pulled out with the handfuls of dirt or if the ring was sliding deeper underground.
I arrived and took a quick walk around the area and down to the pond’s edge. I used my metal detector for a quick scan of the site to confirm the ring hand not been removed and was sitting in Andrew’s pile of dirt from a few days earlier. The thought crossed my mind to use heavy equipment, as it would have been faster and much less work, but the risk of damaging the ring would have been high. I was no stranger to manual labor, so I began by chipping away the asphalt driveway a couple of feet from the boulder where Andrew had already dug. In the past, I used a similar technique and pinch point bar to help a gentleman retrieve a time capsule entombed within a granite stone wall, so I knew how to break up the asphalt driveway carefully. Once I got through the asphalt layer into the compacted fill, I started tunneling towards the boulder where the ring was suspected to be lost. Accessing the lost ring from the side would hopefully prevent the ring from being pushed deeper underground. Before mining each fill layer, I used a small handheld metal detector, called a pinpointer, to crawl into the cavern and check for the ring. I then used my large metal detector to survey the excavated materials on the surface. I repeated this process for over an hour when I finally got a signal on my pinpointer. I set up a flashlight at the bottom of the dark cavern and scraped away the fill from the boulder base. The struggle was real. I was heavy breathing, sweating, and crammed in a hole laying on my stomach—all while and trying to hold my cell phone steady to get some decent footage. The relief of a shiny object flipping out of the area I was scrapping couldn’t have come sooner. The flashlight immediately revealed an inscription, “Ben April 7 1897.”
I backed out of the waist-deep hole, covered in dirt and sweat, but grasping the prize. All I could think about was the different generations who have worn this ring. I am sure every past owner has their stories of almost losing it. At the moment between finding the lost ring and notifying the owner, time stands still. All the stories, characters, and physical qualities of the ring finally meld. I was nostalgic about every life experience this ring has endured. The time came, and I handed the ring over to the family. With three generations of family members watching this whole mystery unfold, I knew the event would be discussed for decades to come. The smallest family member, too young to remember this event, will undoubtedly hear of the time the earth swallowed the family ring. When it comes time for the little one to carry the torch, the memories created today will contribute to the protection of this ring for another generation to come.
How to Find a Lost Ring
Mark the area where you believe the ring is lost. Then call a professional metal detectorist to discuss recovery options. My jewelry finding service covers Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and other surrounding states.
If you have a lost ring or something of value, contact Keith Wille now.
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