Pete McGhee, Author at The Ring Finders

Valuable Heirloom Gold Ring Lost for 6 Weeks, Found in Compost Pile

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Maureen habitually took off her heirloom ring in the kitchen, a beautiful gold, diamond and emerald ring handed down from her Grandmother.
One day, she caught up the ring as she swept the peelings off the benchtop into the bin.

She didn’t realise until later when she went to collect the ring and noticed it was no longer in its place.

A frantic search yielded no sign of it, and with subsequent searches over the next few weeks she narrowed it down to either having been thrown out with the rubbish, or buried in the compost.

She gave me a call, obviously there was nothing I could do in the worst case scenario of it going out in the rubbish collection, however I could search the compost (I’ve searched through far worse than domestic compost in the past!).

A quick scan with the high powered machine gave a target deep in the bin, could be a ring, or could be foil.
Only one way to find out, roll up the sleeves and on with the nitrile gloves.

I had a rough idea of where it sat inside the compost and it was well down after six weeks of additional food scraps and lawn clippings.
A dense cloud of fruit flies instantly erupted out of the compost as I scooped most of the recent material away and investigated deeper with the handheld probe.

Wasn’t long before I had pinpointed the location and I dug further into the slimy mass, checking each handful until I caught a glimpse of gold in the ooze.

I lifted it out and showed a tearful Maureen.
A quick rinse under the garden tap and it shone brightly once again, no worse off for it’s little adventure and another story added to its hundred-plus history.

Two Rings Lost at Taipa Beach, Recovered and Returned Within Minutes

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

A very quick recovery a little while ago…

Kaiah gave me a call asking if I was able to locate her two sentimental rings she had lost at Taipa, she was about to head out of the district and was very anxious to recover them before she left.
Having put them in her cap for safe keeping while she went for a swim, she subsequently forgot about them on her return and grabbed the hat with the rings still inside and headed back to the car.
She met me on site and showed me where she thought they might be and I started the search, retracing her route back towards the car.

As I expanded the search area I quickly located one ring, then the other a few metres away.


Ring lost in Surf at Woolleys Bay, Recovered at 4am

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Joanne posted on Facebook that she had lost her special silver ring in the surf at Woolleys bay, and asked if anyone had found it.

Knowing the beach well, I knew the ring would already be well under the surface, and likely quite deep with a few tides having passed since.
I very rarely solicit recoveries, however there was a very small window to be able to have any chance of recovering this ring, so I made contact.

Leaving at 1am that night, I made the two hour drive to Woolleys Bay. There was still enough moonlight to see without artificial lights, it’s very meditative searching a remote surf beach at night.
I got started in the cool morning air.

Joanne had given me a rough location, the time it was lost and a photo taken at the time showing the group in the water.

Recent rough seas had changed the contour of the beach and I calculated the delicate silver ring would likely have moved further seawards down the steep slope so biased the first grid to account for this.

As the tide started to turn and the sweeping waves started to absorb my grid lines, I heard a small fluctuation in the background tone.
I re-scanned it with different settings and decided it was definitely a viable target

The shingle was below tide water level and collapsed as quickly as I could dig with the scoop. After about four or five rapid scoops, whatever it was now lay in the small mound on the beach.
It didn’t take long before a silver ring matching the description was laying in my hand.

4am was a bit too early to call Joanne with the good news(!),  so I headed off to kill some time until a more civilised hour.

Later that day, Joanne met up with me a little way down the coast at Whangaumu Bay for the handover.

It wasn’t a valuable ring, but was treasured by Joanne as it had been purchased on a holiday and encapsulated those special memories.
You couldn’t replace that.

Tearful Loss of Wedding Ring at Ruakaka, Tearful Reunion When Found

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

A very tearful Laura phoned – she had just watched her wedding ring vanish into the sand beneath her feet while in the sea at Ruakaka.

Her husband immediately grabbed the pink swimming goggles off the indignant daughter and he spent a long time searching for it until he was, as Laura described, “mildly hypothermic”.

I had recently returned a lost ring for Jax, Laura’s mother in law, and Jax recommended that Laura contact me immediately.

Which she did.

In the busiest summer season yet, I had literally only just returned from another ocean recovery 150km away near Whangarei and was exhausted. However, the emotion and desperation on the other end of the phone was very real – So I grabbed a strong coffee, some food, and threw the wet gear back in the car and made the two hour drive south.

I knew this part of the beach is metal detected every night at this time of year, and I was determined that this ring wouldn’t become part of someone’s collection.

On arrival the family met me, and Laura took me down to the beach and indicated the corridor where she thought the ring lay.

Fortunately, after a few days of strong offshore winds the surf was uncharacteristically very small for this coast. This was partially offset though by the corridor being right in the middle of the narrow surf lifesaving patrolled area, so lots of people to work around…

I did a quick scoping search, however this yielded nothing and ultimately I had to resort to my proven techniques to ensure every square inch was covered.

The beach was relatively trash-free, so the interruptions to the background threshold tones were few, and quickly dismissed.

Line by line I slowly closed off the indicated area, and I was starting to pre-plan the next search phase.

Suddenly a bold, gold tone in the headphones – The scoop came up out of the water and I rinsed the sand away.

There was Laura’s gold wedding ring.

I held it up to Laura, sitting on the beach, and she let loose with whoops and yells – closely followed by the rest of the beach!
They had by now all heard the story about this strange person zig-zagging around in the waves and had become invested in what I refer to as “The Worlds Most Boring Spectator Sport”.

After the excitement subsided, the handshakes and hugs done, I parked the car in the shade and slept solidly for a few hours before the drive home.

It’s Not all Gold. Lawn cleared of Nails…

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

As I was waiting for the tide to fall at Ngunguru for a recovery, I was browsing the local social media.
Angie had just posted asking for someone with a detector to find and remove nails from her lawn in the area around an old bonfire site.

I had time to kill, so I got in touch.

Fifteen minutes after her post, I handed Angie my spare pinpointer, and after a very quick rundown on how to use it, we were both on hands and knees sweeping pinpointers across the bonfire site.

Initially targets were constant, but after about 30 minutes the signals faded away.

Time to get the coil out and check.

We had achieved about a 90% hit rate with just the pinpointers, and with the coil I identified the residuals.
Angie and I progressively removed these until the site was confirmed entirely clean.

There were suggestions on social media to use magnets, however these would not have released the bulk of the nails which were entrapped in the soil.

The specific equipment and expertise of a ringfinder ensured a 100% removal of ALL nails from her lawn.



Lost Ring on 90 Mile Beach, NZ. Found!

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

90 Mile Beach (Te-Oneroa-a-Tōhē) in the north of New Zealand is a vast, flat, featureless strip of sand. Open to the Tasman Sea, the surf is generally large and relentless.
Layers of titanomagnetite (iron sand) cause issues with most metal detectors, and there is a definite art to being able to hear through the constant background chatter and identify your target.

Especially when you’re searching for a gold ring lost a week prior, with big surf moving tonnes of sand on every tide…

Wain had been playing with his daughter on a bodyboard in the waves when the ring slipped off his finger.
He glimpsed it sitting on the sand momentarily, before a wave buffeted him and he lost sight of it. Efforts to refind it were in vain, it had already sunk into the sand.

The ring had been passed down from his late father, so was of huge sentimental value. Fortunately, the family had done everything right to maximise their chances of getting the ring back.
Wain had taken several bearings by lining up features on land and on the rocks nearby. His wife had used her phone to obtain a GPS pinned location and they had contacted an experienced Ring Finder as soon as possible.

I left straight from work and met Wain and family at Ahipara at dead low tide.
With the contour being so flat, the tide retreats a long way which exposed the area of loss. It also comes back in pretty quickly too.
I had a couple of hours before the water returned and covered the search area.

I had two start points, Wains old-school triangulation using transit bearings and the GPS location.

A quick search around each estimated position revealed nothing, so I started the search in earnest.

Wain mentioned that the sand seemed higher against the rocks which didn’t bode well, so with the detector settings opened right up to maximum for a deep target I commenced the grid. The headset twittering and chattering incessantly with the iron sand interference.

The grid slowly spiralled away from their marks in the sand, a few possible targets were dug, mostly ancient nails from shipping pallets used in beach bonfires. Someones long lost stainless steel ring gave the heart a kick, but at least I knew I was getting the depth I needed.

The grid got larger and larger and the family drifted away leaving Wain sitting on a nearby rock. From his body language I could sense his hope fading.

I decided to reorientate, and move further towards the rocks. Assume nothing, Check everything, Believe No-one.

Almost immediately I heard something in amongst the background noise. Deep and messy signal, but definitely a solid target in the ironsand.

The scoop powered its way through the different coloured layers of sand.
I waved the coil over the last scoopful lying on the beach beside the adjacent crater. I knew from the signal this was it.
Tapping the clumps of sand with my foot to break them up, the yellow edge of a ring flashed in the late afternoon sun.

Wains face broke into a huge smile when he saw me hold it up. The relief and emotion was certainly evident and the ring immediately went back on his finger.

As we walked back, the incoming tide started to erase my grid in the sand…

Engagement and Wedding Ring lost in Sea at Russell, NZ – Ring Finder Saves the Day

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Jan phoned me last night, quite distressed.
She had just been swimming off the beach at Russell when her wedding ring slipped off her finger.
She momentarily glimpsed it on the gravelly seabed and did a ‘duck-dive’ to grab it.  Her gold and diamond engagement also slipped off – Disaster!

Repeated attempts to grab either ring were fruitless and she came ashore, leaving her treasured and sentimental rings out in the Bay.

Dejected, she made her way to Butterfish Restaurant for a drink to calm down, when one of the bar staff mentioned my service.  She called and asked, “Could I help?”

Of course.

Now, Russell beach is a very steep and mobile beach. The bulk of it is made up of pea-sized gravels which move with each wave.  This highly mobile, almost fluid gravel beach ‘Eats’ rings!

I arranged to meet Jan first thing the following morning to catch the next tide.

Early start next morning and I arrived to see Jan ready to meet me.
I had calculated the tidal heights and knew that I would be getting wet, but I cleared the exposed beach first – Assume Nothing, Believe No-one, Check Everything.

As expected, no rings were found and I moved out into the water, my feet sinking over the ankles in the soft gravels – I’ve been here before… It’s never an easy recovery.

I did about three or four passes along the beach, getting deeper and deeper.

A whisper in the headphones caught my attention. This wasn’t another fleck of copper, or one of the many thousands of can pull tabs or bottle caps that infest this beach. The whisper said, “dig me…”

The hole refilled as soon as the scoop came out, missed it! Next time I sent the scoop deep, easily 40cm down and cut it back under the target. Heaving several kilos of gravel out ensured I had it.

After much sifting, a gold ring slowly emerged out of the gravel! I held it up to Jan, her face lit up and she started walking down the beach.

Now for number two.
I knew it was nearby, and how deep in the gravel it would be. In a few seconds I had located and captured it.

Both rings accounted for, I waded ashore.
Job done.

Opal Necklace and Ring Both Found in Surf at Taupo Bay

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

While on holiday at Taupo Bay, Kelsie did what so many do – she threaded her ring onto her necklace for safekeeping.
Wading back in in through the surf, she undid the clasp to put the ring on her finger, and promptly dropped everything; The opal ring, the opal pendant and the chain.

The water was shallow, but the wash instantly claimed all three and in one swirl of water they slid into the sand and out of sight. Lost.
Her friend put a post on the local community noticeboard the next day asking for help and several locals suggested that she contact me.

I went out straight after work, large swells were forecast and time was of the essence on this active surf beach.

The surf was already building rapidly, occasional 2-3m breakers offshore were producing a powerful surge running up and onto the beach.
Some locals set up a line of beach chairs and settled in to watch what I refer to as “The worlds most boring spectator sport”.
A couple of minutes into the search a powerful surge came in, instantly wrapping a large ball of seaweed around the detector shaft and, before I could react – snapped the metal shaft!

Fortunately I also had my other water machine in the car, although the smaller coil would mean more swings and with the iron sand present it would be unlikely to locate the fine chain. The ring and pendant were the critical pieces though.

I started the grid, focusing on the water first. Closing off this search area, I then moved inshore where the wash had now subsided and more beach had been exposed.
Before long, a silver and opal ring was extracted from about 15cm down in amongst the iron sand.
I had a solid start point, and in quick order an opal pendant followed.

Now to try for the chain…

I would be on the back foot looking for a delicate chain in these conditions, so with the machine wound right open I started to conduct an intensive grid in the area. Regrettably, I was unable to hear the chain in the chatter from the iron sand.

The two important key pieces had been recovered though, much to Kelsies relief.


Gold Signet Ring Lost on Tokerau Beach, Quickly Found

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Diane phoned me yesterday, her son had just lost his ring in the sea at Tokerau Beach in Doubtless Bay, NZ.
Fortunately it was at high tide, and the water was only a metre deep when lost.

I arrived a few hours later for low tide. Diane and Dan were there to meet me and we went through the usual twenty questions.
Diane told me that she had paced out to roughly where the ring had been lost – Textbook stuff to help your neighbourhood Ringfinder.

Both of them marked their respective “X” in the sand where they thought it might be and I started the search pattern, half an eye on the motorbikes and four-wheel drives roaring past (Tokerau Beach is classed as public highway, it’s supposed to be limited to 30km/h, but…).

It was nice to be out of surf and on nice open, flat, hard sand for the first time in a long while.

After about a dozen lines, I got a solid tone – could only be one thing.

It was about 5cm down – Dan’s face lit up as I showed it to him.

… Mums mark in the sand was the closest 🙂


Lost ring Found in Water at Kowharewa Bay, Tutukaka, NZ

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Chris was on holiday in Tutukaka, near Ngunguru in New Zealand. Shortly before he left, he and some friends went for a swim out from Kowharewa Bay, a shallow bay inside Tutukaka harbour.
On returning to the beach, he noticed his sentimental gold and palladium wedding ring was no longer on his finger.

His friends put a post up on the local Facebook community group asking if anyone had found a wedding ring at Kowharewa Bay. Posting on Social Media is a common reaction of people desperate to have their lost ring returned, unfortunately in this day and age it also attracts the wrong sort who actively seek to pocket the lost ring.

I was fortunate to see this post early though, and given the tides it was very unlikely anyone would attempt until the following day. I was on the road at 1am the next morning, making the long drive to Tutukaka to catch the 4am low tide.

This time of year, I do not do deep wades at night – Being ‘bumped’ by a shark on a night water search last summer was very unsettling. I could however cover the beach and shallows, thus minimising the likelihood of a ‘magpie’ detectorist sniping the ring. I would return on the afternoon tide to cover the extensive area out wide in the bay.

I spent the high tide period that morning snoozing in the shade, catching up on lost sleep from the early start. Then, as the tide fell, I commenced the water search.

It was a huge potential area, with only a fixed start point of a boat ramp, and a general direction. It would be easy for less experienced people to get ‘lazy’ with the coil, especially as the hours wear on and the arms start to hurt from pushing the detector against the water resistance.
Progressively moving out into the bay as the tide fell, I had covered just over 3,000 square metres; 3,097 to be exact. Yet another aluminium can pull tab had just been put in the pouch and on checking the location again, caught the sound of a probable ring at the outer edge of the swing.

The scoop slid through the mud and came to the surface, a plume of grey spreading out behind it. My fingers felt through the mud retained in the scoop and closed on a wide wedding band. I checked for an inscription as mentioned in the Facebook post, yes. The odds were very good this was the one.

I marked the spot just in case I needed to restart the search and went ashore to phone the Chris. He gave me a bible verse over the phone, to which I replied, “I have your ring here!”
A stunned silence for a few seconds before I heard the reaction on the other end of the phone… The sort of reaction that gives me the ‘warm fuzzies’ and drives me to do my utmost to reunite people with their lost items.

Chris’ friends met me shortly afterwards so I could hand the ring over to them, they would pass it on to him next time they met.It had been a very long day, so another short kip under the trees before the long drive home.

My tenacity and attention to detail is what gives me the edge and enables me to maintain a 95+% success rate. If you have had a friend or neighbour try to find your lost ring without success, don’t give it up as truly lost – give me a call 🙂

Please, please, don’t post detailed locations on Social Media. Contact an experienced Ring Finder as soon as possible for the best chance of getting your precious lost ring, bracelet, watch or necklace back. If you do want to post in case someone has , or may find it, keep it vague. A simple photo with any inscription and just the name of the beach will suffice.