When Bill Jones purchased his first metal detector in 1978, his initial plan was to get rich.

"I owned a hardware store and I had these dreams of grandeur of all the gold coins and things I was going to find and I went out."

He found coins, all right.

"Lots of pennies. Boy there's lots of pennies out there," Jones said.

Many bottle caps and pop tabs too.

Ring Finders

Bill Jones of Airdrie, Alta. is a member of the Ring Finders — a network of independent metal detector specialists from around the globe. (Falice Chin/CBC)

And while it took several years, he did eventually stumble across something valuable — a wedding band.

It was engraved and had the owner's phone number in the inside, so Jones rang it up and reunited the ring with its rightful owners.

Since then, he's returned "hundreds of rings" to their owners.  

"The smiles I get from people and the hugs. Some of the hugs are a little uncomfortable because they last too long from other guys!"

He recalls some tears too — once from a man who had lost his wife's wedding ring three weeks after she passed away.

"These things are so precious to these people," he said.

Influx of lost rings in winter

Jones is a member a network of independent metal detector specialists from around the world called the Ring Finders.

Most members charge a nominal fee to sleuth for your jewellery wherever you dropped it. Jones charges $50 for his gas and time, but often, his clients voluntarily offer him a reward.

But the Airdrie, Alta. retiree doesn't do it for the money.

"The thrill is in the hunt," he said.

Jones has recovered valuables in lakes, rivers, parks — even snow banks.

"Come January, that's when we get a lot of calls," he said. "And the reason for that fingers shrink and people don't wear gloves and they dust their cars off and there goes the ring."

Ring Finders Alberta

Some of the unclaimed rings that Bill Jones has stumbled upon over the years. (Falice Chin/CBC)

'Marital discord rings'

For the most part, Jones can save your bacon and recover your ring even before your spouse even knows you lost it.

But in some cases, he's searching for what he calls, "marital discord rings."

"They're the ones that have been thrown at the husband or the wife in a fit of anger and bounced off their head or something and as soon as it's gone — they want it back right away."


With files from the CBC's Falice Chin and the Calgary Eyeopener