Recover my wedding ring?
March 13, 2007 12:58 AM   Subscribe

The mountain ate my wedding ring, help me find it!

I recently got married on October 15th, and got myself a shiny new tungsten ring to wear. The ring is fairly large at 8mm diameter, and size 11.

Last weekend while I was backpacking, I lost the ring. I'm pretty sure I lost it when I was sliding down the side of a large mud hill. This hill is about 60 feet high and has a fairly steep edge. It's a "mud hill" which is made of very loose dirt that crumbles when you step on it. I was able to just slide down on my feet and used my (left) hand to balance myself. As I slid down the hill, I brought a lot of loose dirt down with me in a sort of mini dirt avalanche. I'm pretty sure that my ring is in that dirt somewhere. It could be a couple inches deep, it could be on top, it could be up to maybe a foot deep. The dirt also has lots of calcite type rocks in it that glisten in the sun, so the "find the shiny object in the hill" strategy doesn't work.

So, i could go and buy another ring, yes, but what sounds much more fun is to go back to the hill and find my original. So, questions:

- How should i go about finding my ring?
- The first thing i think of is a metal detector. Can i rent a metal detector anywhere? I'd rather not have to buy one for a one time use.
- can a metal detector find tungsten? They say they can find "metals" like gold and silver, and I assume this includes tungsten but I'm not sure
- any other ideas on getting the ring back?
posted by escher to Grab Bag (15 answers total)
Metal detectors work by inductive magnetic fields. Tungsten is conductive, so yes, they can find it.

If you're serious about finding the ring, and have localized the search area to X cubic feet of mud, you may be better off making a sifting bucket/tray and working with that. You may want to contact the local archeology department and see what their recommendation is.

I don't think you could rent a metal detector anywhere of the sort that you're looking for.
posted by onalark at 1:45 AM on March 13, 2007

Most metal detectors work by sensing the change in inductive loading of a coil due to the presence of a metallic compound, thus they'll be more "sensitive" when triggered by ferrous compounds (iron, steel, or other alloys of iron) which are strongly conductive with respect to magnetic fields. But this is a relative situation, as nearly any metal is somewhat more conductive to EMF than silica, which is the primary component of common dirt and rocks. So, a good metal detector could possibly be a significant help in locating your ring, and there are several places that rent them in your area.

But you might also take along a couple of shovels, and a screen sifting box of appropriate mesh size, as that is the equipment that people looking for small artifacts in piles of dirt, professionally, seem to favor.
posted by paulsc at 1:53 AM on March 13, 2007

The metal detector will help. You might want to recreate your situation with a "fake" ring, have it come off where you estimate you might of lost it and see exactly where it goes. Do this say ten times and search the ten areas throughly with your eyes and then the metal detector. I use a White's metal dectector and would highly recommend them to you- if you can find one to rent. Read the instruction manual so you will understand how to use the thing if you go that route. Happy hunting!
posted by bkeene12 at 5:20 AM on March 13, 2007

the ring you linked to is actually tungsten carbide, which is quite weakly magnetic (though comparable to silver/gold). so the question of whether a metal detector will find it is probably dependent on what kind of detector you get; i understand that most modern ones are fairly fancy things that work on induced current from a magnetic pulse though, so you'll probably be okay. but if the rocks in the area contain iron, that might mask the signal from your ring.

if the area where the ring might be is small enough (you don't really say) and you're willing to put in the time, you might try excavating in the same way archaeologists do: get some stakes and string, box off the area, dig up the dirt and dump it onto a wooden frame with a screen. sift the dirt and remove rocks by hand until you find your ring.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 5:37 AM on March 13, 2007

You can often rent metal detectors at the types of equipment-rental places where you can get power tools, Bobcats, and other miscellaneous construction equipment.
posted by MrZero at 5:59 AM on March 13, 2007

Alternately, try contacting a metal detectorist club in your area. Treasure hunters are often quite willing to help someone out in your situation. But be aware that many national (and state or local) parks do not allow metal detectors. Check this list first, and be sure to get any necessary permits or permission beforehand.
posted by ScottUltra at 7:25 AM on March 13, 2007

I think the metal detector is your best best, but I think it is not likely you will find it. I *hope* I am wrong, and ask that you post and update one way or the other. Good luck!
posted by terrapin at 7:40 AM on March 13, 2007

I can't offer advice, but I thought you might appreciate some hope: This happened to me, twice.

When I was in high school, I bought my girlfriend a nice ring. We were driving one night, in the middle of an argument, when she rolled down her window and threw the ring out of the car. We were doing about 45 mph past a muddy embankment along the edge of a forest. I drove her home, then turned around and went back. She showed up about 10 minutes later, having asked her stepfather to drive her down and help look for it — but I was already climbing back up the embankment with the ring in hand.

She lost it again, about a year later. We were in the middle of Boston when she realized that it was gone. We backtracked for about 15 minutes and found it lying on the sidewalk of Newbury Street.

I hope you find yours. Good luck.
posted by cribcage at 7:45 AM on March 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

One summer day in high school I lost my grandmother's white gold & diamond watch while sunbathing on a packed beach in North County San Diego. Yes, I was a total idiot. I didn't realize it was missing until after I got home. I went back to the beach and... I actually found it within ten minutes.

Miracles happen. Good luck.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:24 AM on March 13, 2007

Does your city have a tool lending library? They might have what you are looking for.
posted by trixare4kids at 9:12 AM on March 13, 2007

If it makes you feel better, I lost my wedding ring about 3 months after I was married. It was one of those things where by the time I realized it fell off, I had already been in a number of places (all in a city with lots of foot traffic). I retraced my steps but was never able to find it and have pretty much abandoned hope of ever seeing the ring again.
posted by phixed at 10:15 AM on March 13, 2007

My wedding ring came off while I was swimming in a pool and was sucked down the drain somehow bypassing the filter.
posted by Xurando at 2:45 PM on March 13, 2007

I would try a gas-powered leaf blower, or a rake. Or get one of those big magnets and tie it to a rake, drag it down that path. The rake will rearrange the packing of the dirt clods and make your ring pop to the top, would be my guess.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:23 PM on March 13, 2007

So, did the metal detector work? I lost my tungsten wedding ring digging in the garden last night. (Next time I'll wear gloves.) I may still find it sifting through the area I was planting, but I was wondering about the metal detector option as well, because it has to be somewhere in the first foot or so of soil where I was working.

I hope you found it!
posted by teilhard1761 at 6:29 AM on May 4, 2007

As an update:

Aimee & I went last weekend to find the ring. Yeah, it would have been nicer to go several weekends ago when it would have been cooler (it was about 100F this past weekend out there, with very little shade) but with work trips and all we really had no choice and this was the first available weekend we could make it out there.

I rented two metal detectors from Escondido Coin & Loan for $10 a day - and they're closed on weekends so i rented them for $20 for the whole weekend. Quite the deal. We headed out for the desert on friday night after i got off work, and got to ocotillo around 8:30PM. By this time the sun had gone down and it was quite dark. One thing we realized is that it's much harder to find these small dirt trails in the dark - my directions would have been good enough during the day but not at night. So i had to make a couple calls to family to help out with directions (oh, it's 6.27 miles from this turn to where the trailhead should be) and eventually we found a trail and just decided to pull off there and camp for the night. We figured that we'd try to figure out where we were when the sun came back up.

Well, we got up at 5:30 (sunrise at 5:50) and packed things up, ate breakfast and decided to check where this trail went to - it might have been the trail we were looking for but i wasn't sure. In about 5 minutes, we found the end of the trail and found out it was indeed the exact spot we wanted to be in! We had camped literally just over the hill from our trailhead and we didn't even know it. It was definately a good sign.

We set out on the trail at 6:30, and arrived to the "ring location" at about 8:30. The weather was great at this point - maybe 75F and a slight breeze. There were a few tough spots where we had to climb and shuttle the equipment with rope but we just went slowly and everything went fine.

So we searched there for about 3 hours - up and down, side to side, sweeping with the metal detectors, sliding down the hill to dislodge the rocks, etc. It was around 11:30 now and it's starting to get hot, we're having to take breaks in the shade every now and then to cool off. The hill of course has absolutely no shade so when we're out there searching it's out in the sun the whole time. We decide to make one more run: it's getting hot and we've literally searched the entire "relavent" portion several times now and found nothing so we're just going to give it one more shot before heading home.

Aimee is going to start at the top and slide down the right side and i'm going to go down the left side sweeping metal detectors along the way. We have to stagger our search because the metal detectors interfere with each other. Aimee goes down with no luck. About 1/3 the way down my run i see a circular object in the dirt next to my foot and instantly realize it's my ring. Since the ring was in the dirt sliding down the hill with me and i didn't want it to slide away, i jammed the metal detector into the dirt to stop it from going anywhere. I quickly dug into the dirt there and pulled out my ring!

It's still as shiny as ever (tungsten rules) and now it's got a bit of history.

I still can't believe i found the ring!
posted by escher at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2007 [21 favorites]

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