One woman put her rings in a towel when she went swimming in the ocean, picked up the towel when she returned, shivering and wet, and the rings went flying. Where? Who knew? She combed her fingers through the sand with that heavy, sinking feeling of hopelessness that attends a needle-in-a-haystack hunts.
Another woman was shoveling her driveway when her rings slipped into a snow bank. Put major emphasis on “bank,” because it was like saying sayonara to thousands upon thousands of dollars, not to mention the sentimental value invested in that purchase. She knew continuing to shovel might mean pushing the rings into a drain or sending them sprawling. She wondered how her husband would feel.
A gentleman was wiping the snow off his windshield at work when his grandfather’s 14 carat Celtics Ring slid off his finger as he shook the snow off his hands. Another snow bank, another person with some ’splainin’ to do.
Kent Blethen is all too familiar with these scenarios. Blethen, who works as a county jail correctional officer, has been metal detecting for years, helping people find the unfindable. The metal detector was originally a gift for his son but dad wound up enjoying it more.
“It’s a treasure hunt,” Blethen said. “And it’s kind of fun when you find silver coins from the 1700s.”
Blethen hits the beach for many of his searches, but also roams cornfields where he finds historic coins, silver spoons and more rings. He has a storehouse of historic coins, like a genuine King George copper coin from the 1780s. He always asks the property owner for permission to conduct his hunts and always returns later to show the landowner what he found – and hands over any items pertaining to the person’s family.
“People like to know what’s in their yard,” he said. “I leave a lot of stuff behind, like musket balls. I’ll leave them on the doorstep. Or lead toys.”
His focus is mainly buttons and coins – like a George Washington inaugural button he found. Blethen belongs to The Gateway Treasure Hunters of Wareham and the Silver City Treasure Seekers out of Taunton – both organizations dedicated to treasure hunters armed with metal detectors and the thrill of the hunt.
He had toyed with joining the national Ring Finders organization as well, a network of metal detector treasure hunters across the nation who help people find lost rings and other valuables. But Blethen didn’t get involved with Ring Finders until recently, when the gentleman running the organization contacted his club with a request.
Hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, Ring Finders founder Chris Turner says his goal is to offer the world an online directory of metal detecting specialists that will help find their lost jewelry at beaches, parks, lakes and yards around the world.
Turner told Blethen’s group that a woman from Belmont had lost her engagement and wedding rings in a snow bank while shoveling. Could anyone in her area help?
Blethen arrived at the woman’s home, along with Ring Finder Rick Browne from Yarmouth, and both began waving their detectors over the snow.
“We found her ring in 40 minutes,” Blethen said. “She gave us a reward. All we wanted was a picture of the rings and a thank you. But she gave us a reward. Each of us got $300 bucks; she was adamant about it.”
Blethen and Browne both joined Ring Finders, agreeing to perform these searches for reward money only – and only if the owner of the property could afford a reward. Blethen has found precious jewelry for nothing more than a thank you and a piece of cake, and that’s fine with him.
So, why do people lose their rings and jewelry?
The most common problem this time of year is the cold weather, he said. Low temperatures cause tissue to shrink, which, in turn, causes a person’s fingers to shrink. The same is true of swimming in the cold Atlantic ocean. The result is that ring that fit nice and snug in the store is now doing acrobatics around your finger, and easily slips off into the sand, water or snow.
“Ninety percent of your jewelry is always found in the water because your fingers will shrink two sizes in the water,” Blethen said.
Add an outdoor activity to the mix and the ring can become airborne, rendering it nearly impossible to locate. Rings are also frequently lost inside gloves, Blethen added. The person later picks up the glove and the ring will fall out of it.
A weak clasp, or a clasp that is accidentally bumped can and often does result in lost bracelets.
The remedy is to leave precious jewelry and rings at home if you’re heading to the beach, plan to do some shoveling or join a snowball fight.
What many don’t realize about Blethen and others like him is that these treasure hunters want to help – they are not just about finding treasures for themselves, Blethen said. The vast majority of the people in his groups and others will go out of their way to help people find lost articles, often free of charge. Metal detector sleuths like him also look for identifying marks on found jewelry in an effort to return it to its owner. But that’s not always possible, he said.
“A lot of people think we’re pirates,” Blethen said. “I know a lady who hates the fact that I metal detect. I find on average 25 to 80 gold rings a year. But some of them don’t have names or initials and you can’t return them because you don’t know where they came from.”
Blethen urged anyone who has lost a ring or other important piece of jewelry at a beach, in the snow or on their property to contact Ring Finders online at www.theringfinders.com. Blethen and Browne are currently the only two Massachusetts Ring Finders listed on the site.