By Frank Colletti
This summer started out like many others over the past 20 years. I normally spend the summers detecting schools, parks, and playgrounds. However, this year my elbow has been bothering me more than usual. My doctor diagnosed it (the elbow problem) as repetitive stress syndrome. To make a ridiculously long story short: I had spent too many years digging in the dirt with a small digger and slamming into the hard-packed earth. The result was that I had injured my elbow and it seemed to constantly ache. I couldn’t give up metal detecting, so I simply changed my area of prime focus for the season to the beaches, since the use of a scoop did not bother the arm or elbow at all.
Over the course of years of detecting, there are two finds that I have never made. One is a gold coin which I thought that I had found last year, at a local beach. It turned out that it was a replica that someone had either lost at the beach, or left there deliberately, just to try to give me a heart attack. The other item was an engagement ring with a diamond. Every time that I went out detecting I used Mel Fisher’s refrain “Today’s the day” hoping that it would be so. Reading the pages of Western & Eastern Treasures over the years I have dreamed of that day for years.
This time my wife and I decided to take a short trip south and spend some time at the local area beaches. Although there are plenty of beaches where we live, it seemed to be a good time for a change in scenery. So, we packed up the car, and off we drove down to the South Jersey shore. The next morning I got up early, as usual, and unpacked my White’s DFX, loaded the batteries and off to the beach I went. Note to self: Always keep the cell phone on, so we can meet up for breakfast.
That day the first beach that I approached looked the same as any other one that I had ever detected, just a bit smaller. When I approach any new beach, or even a return to one that I have detected in the past, I always take time to consider where the most traffic may have occurred. Look for the marks in the sand where the beach chairs and blankets were placed. In addition, the piles of trash that the inconsiderate beachgoers leave behind are good indicators of possible activity.
After I determine where the likeliest heavy activity takes place, I start my patterns there. This morning I was fortunate to start off well, and the first half-hour or so added about five dollars in change, mostly quarters, to my collecting bag. I moved over to the waterline, where there was a small cut in the sand. There appeared to be a lot of activity in the area so I re-ground balanced my DFX to be sure that it was operating at its best. Within a minute I got a nice solid ring tone and centered the hit. I scooped the hit, checked the hold, and noted that the find was in my basket. I started to move forward as I shook out the sand and then looked in the scoop when I heard the sound of metal in the bottom of the scoop.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a silver ring. With a smile, I picked it out, and instantly realized that it was too heavy for silver. Naturally, I quickly looked and saw that there were five decent-sized diamonds set into the top of the ring. Since I have found silver rings with CZ’s before I wasn’t overly excited, until I looked inside the ring. Inside I saw the letters “PT” and “999” and then I got excited. Platinum is commonly abbreviated with either “P,” “Plat,” or “PT;” by the weight alone I knew that this was a good ring.
I looked around to be sure that I was alone, and gave out a very soft “woo-hoo!” of joy. I had only found two other platinum rings before this, both of them men’s wedding bands, and I know how scarce they are to find. The grin on my face would have been obvious to anyone walking by, so I got serious and checked to be sure that the ring was secure in my pocket. Laughing, I thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to find the matching engagement ring?” This would have been especially great, since I had never found an engagement ring, although I have often thought about “my engagement” ring that was out there, just waiting for me to find it.
At any rate, I returned to the business of metal detecting. After moving about four or five feet in a line parallel to the water I got another hit and joked to myself, here it (the engagement ring) is. I was nearly in shock when I saw another ring in the bottom of my scoop. I grabbed it and dropped my detector on the sand and I turned it over and saw the biggest diamond that I had ever found staring back at me. My hands started to shake as I looked and also saw the interior of the ring was marked “Plat.” I immediately knew that I had finally done it! After all of these years, I had finally found “my engagement ring!”
I had read many stories in the past about people who make a great find and then leave for the day. Not me, it would have taken a nuclear bomb to move me off that beach on that Sunday morning. I proceeded to back step and retrace my footsteps ever so slowly. With two platinum rings in two hits were there any more finds there? I moved as slowly as I could and proceeded to cover the beach as carefully as I could. Although there were no more platinum rings there, there were quite a few coins found that morning.
I returned the next morning and between the two days, I was able to recover 132 coins, totaling $16.32, which I had not managed to recover in two days in years. The next day was almost a letdown since there were no more rings for me. Well, the next weekend I was back home and decided to try my luck at another, local, beach. I did well that morning with my coin counts, for a quick 31 coins and nearly $4 in change before the crowds started to arrive. As a result, I moved to an adjacent beach that was primarily for surfers and was little used by sunbathers. Unbelievably, my first hit there was a ring, and it was white. No chance, I thought, and it was not platinum. But, I was still happy to find that it was 14-karat white gold, with three nice colored stones and eight (about) half-point diamonds.
Later that week I was able to find a nice jeweler that a friend referred me to, and he was able to deliver the good news. In reverse order of importance, he carefully examined the rings and told me that the wedding band held five 15 point diamonds, of nice quality. The ring was valued at about $1,300. That in itself would have made that weekend a wonderful hunt. Then I waited as he carefully examined THE ring. You know the one. I held my breath as he related to me that it was about 1.2 to 1.25-karat diamond and was valued at about $8,000! I was in shock, to say the least, and just sat there for a minute before I realized that I wasn’t breathing.
Almost in an anti-climatic manner, he appraised the gold ring with topaz and one-point diamonds, at $300. Those were great weekends for me and one wonderful summer.
I could finally say “I found MY engagement ring.” And, now I have to continue so that I can say that I found my gold coin that is out there, somewhere, waiting for me to find. Until then, I’ll continue to say “today’s the day!”