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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2004) AMP (11/2004) Featured Article (01/2005)   Vol. 38 December 2004 
This Month's Features
As seen in the December 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine

Blue Topaz, Angels And Crabs

By: Ed O'Connell

This year began on a very somber note as my wife, Mary, passed away suddenly on January 4th. She was only 43 and in the prime of life when cerebral malaria took her from us. (Please, if you are traveling to Asia, get the appropriate inoculations first. A simple mosquito bite can be deadly.)

I want to personally thank W&ET's managing editor, Rosemary Anderson, for all of her support and kind words. I'm grateful as well to my friends and relatives who have kept me going through this difficult time. Having this great hobby of metal detecting also keeps me preoccupied and relieves stress. When I am in the field, concentrating on that next big signal, all of my worries just seem to disappear. I have been lucky to make some very good finds this year, and would like to share them with you.

After spring break, I decided to try my luck at a beach I seldom visit. Most of my past recoveries there have been "surfer silver"- you know, spinner rings or toe rings. While these are nice to find, nothing can replace the glint of gold in the bottom of my scoop. However, hearing a TV news reporter say, "A larger than usual college crowd has stormed this tiny beach community!" sparked my interest, and I had to check it out. Arriving two hours before low tide, I quickly recovered a toe ring and a small gold cross. This was very encouraging, and my anticipation level was high.

Three hours later my expectations were waning, but my instincts told me to keep going. Deciding to wade out into deeper water, I immediately recovered a badly twisted spinner ring. Minutes later I scooped up a very nice silver ring with an intact blue stone. Too soon the waves picked up, forcing me back to hunting the crowded beach. After dodging tourists for 20 minutes, I decided to call it a day and head home.

Once at home, I cleaned my finds and inspected them more closely. (It is never a good idea to inspect or show off your finds at the beach or in any public location.) Surprisingly, my "silver ring with a glass stone" turned out to be a valuable 14K white gold band with a London blue topaz stone. It appraises in the $350-400 range. Best of all, it is a size 10 and a perfect fit!

In July, while searching in waist-deep surf, I got a very loud signal. At the same instant, something grabbed the side of my foot, pinching it hard. Exclaiming a few choice words, I lifted my foot to expose two red marks left by a crab's claw. Slowly lowering my sore foot, I hobbled back to pinpoint the target. Well, all of this commotion caught the attention of a German tourist and her son, and they watched with interest as I hoisted a scoopful of sand to the surface. Much to all of our surprise a large blue crab (the same foot pincher?) was hanging onto my scoop. This caused the lady to remark, "Look, Klause, he caught a big crab!"

I barely noticed the varmint clinging outside my scoop, as my attention was drawn to the item inside it. Nonchalantly, I reached in and removed a huge man's wristwatch, replying, "No, I'm not catching crabs, I'm catching watches." This really confused the tourists, and they waded off, muttering something about "crazy Americans." Meanwhile I was busy inspecting the nicest watch I've found in 15 years of metal detecting.

Usually, I find only watch parts or an intact watch that is broken and can't be repaired. This time the watch was working perfectly; only the pin had come loose, causing it to fall off the owner's wrist. Further research on the internet by my brother Dan revealed it to be a Citizens Blue Angels Eco-drive model retailing for $450- a very good find indeed, even though I had to fight off a crab to recover it. I've encountered watch dogs before, but never a watch crab!

Another crustacean encounter had occurred just weeks before. I was on the trail of a recently lost ring when a pesky crab latched onto my big toe. The unmanly scream I let out probably could have been heard a mile away. Fortunately for me, it was early in the morning and the beach was deserted, saving me a lot of embarrassment. Deciding to leave crab territory, I waded to the end of the trough I was searching and started to step out. Much to my amazement, the ring I had been seeking for hours was right in front of me, half buried in the sand. I did a quick double take and quickly scooped up my prize. Beachcombers tell me stories of finding rings while picking up seashells, and now I believe they are telling the truth.

This year I have searched for many lost rings and have been able to return three wedding bands to their owners. One couple insisted on giving me $20, while another husband thanked me with $45. The monetary rewards were nice and helped pay for batteries and gasoline. However, the real reward was to see couples reunited with their cherished symbols of love (also, it is nice to get a husband out of the doghouse by finding his ring).

Another returned ring belonged to a co-worker's girlfriend and was lost during a volleyball game. The ring had belonged to her late mother and is a very special keepsake. Needless to say, I just had to look for it. Eric printed out directions to the park, using, and drew in a diagram of the volleyball court complete with a large X (marks the spot). That Saturday morning I was able to find the ring within 30 minutes and return it to Eric the same day. They were a very happy couple that day and are even more contented today as man and wife.

I want to dedicate this article to my dear departed wife, Mary. She wasn't really keen about my hobby but loved to wear the jewelry I brought home. She also loved to eat blue crabs, and I know of two crabs that would have definitely been steamed for her! Most of all she is now my guardian angel and lovingly watches over me and our sons, Kevin and Kyle.

Mary... I really miss you!

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