The return of the ring: Volunteer helps reunite woman with diamond engagement … – OCRegister


HUNTINGTON BEACH – Julie Atherton didn’t realize her hand was bare until hours after she was home from her relaxing day Sunday at Dog Beach.

But there it was, a naked ring finger, where her 2.5-carat diamond ring had been sitting for the last month since her fiance John Vetere proposed.

She couldn’t breathe. Then the tears flowed, and knots filled her stomach. She remembered the last time she saw the shiny ring, after putting it on her lap as she lathered sunscreen on her skin. When Vetere got up to take a splash, she followed, unaware that her new engagement ring had fallen onto the sand.

The Huntington Beach couple rushed back to the beach, and after searching with no luck, went to Big 5 Sporting Goods to get a metal detector to comb the beach as the sun dipped into the ocean.

“It’s gone,” Vetere, 40, thought as they came up empty handed.

Atherton, 34, couldn’t accept that. She jumped onto the Huntington Beach Community Forum on Facebook with a plea.

“I know it’s crazy to think that someone may have seen and/or turned in a diamond ring but I am desperate and heartbroken that I lost my ring while at dog beach,” she wrote, adding a photo of the ring and a description.

One might think this is an open invitation to thieves looking to come up on a score. But she was desperate.

Instead, she got a long list of well-wishes from strangers, some offering helpful tips like checking with lifeguard or police lost and found, checking local pawn shops, or suggestions to post up fliers.

One suggestion stuck out: Call a professional metal detector specialist who can comb the sand.

That’s when she came across Stan Ross of Ring Finders, who met the couple as the sun rose early the Monday morning on the sand, armed with his high-tech metal detector, ear phones and sand sifter.

Ross, of Newport Beach, is no rookie at helping people find their lost jewels. The retired electrician has been sifting through sand since the 1970s, and these days does the volunteer service at no charge for heartbroken, desperate people searching for lost treasure. He’s found about 150 rings for people over the years, he said.

If Ross does get a tip, he donates 15 percent to a Los Angeles children’s hospital, he said.

“The smiles, the tears, the hugs, the sentimental value – you have to be there when it happens,” the 73-year-old said. “I get excited when the phone rings.”

In just the last week, he’s combed ivy plants in Aliso Viejo after a woman tossed her ring after an angry lovers spat, only to regret it later. He found a shiny silver peace officer badge a state lifeguard lost during a rescue.

Sometimes, it takes days. And delivering news that all hope is lost is never easy, he said.

When he showed up to meet the hopeless couple, he quickly got to work.

He went one way up the sand, then back toward where they were sitting the day before. In under five minutes, he had a cheeky smile on his face as he lifted his sand sifter and picked up a shiny diamond ring. Her diamond ring.

“Can I hug you, is that weird?” Atherton recalled saying to him after he found the ring, then wrapping her arms around him. “You just probably saved my marriage.”

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com