Two Diamond Jims
By: Jim Paliani
I had been hunting the wet sand near the Fort Apache Pier on the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach for about 15 minutes when I noticed a man walking toward me. As he drew nearer, I could see he wasn't the average beach hunter who works the dry sand, looking for freshly dropped clad coins.
He introduced himself as Jim Brouwer, a self-proclaimed "metal detecting junkie." He was carrying a well-worn Minelab Excalibur and a Sunspot scoop, and was dressed for the searing South Carolina sun. Jim lives about two hours west of Myrtle Beach and frequents the beach throughout the year in his quest for gold and rings. His passion is water hunting, and after talking to him for a few minutes I knew he meant business. I was surprised to find out that he knew Phil Alexander, owner of Common Cents Metal Detectors of Shallotte, North Carolina, one of the nicest men I've ever met and an absolutely amazing wealth of metal detecting and beach hunting knowledge. We kibitzed a little longer, and then Jim headed south while I continued hunting the wet shells.
About two hours later, I met up with Jim again and he showed me a man's gold wedding band that he had found. I had found a lady's sterling silver ring and some coins, but no gold. I wasn't complaining, however. After all, it was only my first day of vacation and beach hunting on the Grand Strand, and I had already found a ring and made a new friend!
Our conversation turned to ring hunting, and I told Jim that I had yet to find a diamond ring. In my six years of land and beach hunting, I have collected around 30 rings, but no diamonds. I have broken the silver barrier with a 1910 Barber quarter, the old coin barrier with a 1803 large cent, and found an 1882 Vigilance badge that was featured in W&ET by Mark Parker as a Best Find for 2004. But no diamond rings.
Granted, living in central New Jersey, I don't get to hunt the beach everyday. So, I figure it's the law of averages. If you hunt a beach diligently with the right equipment day after day, low tide after low tide, sooner or later Lady Luck will reward you with a piece of gold. Little did I know how soon she was going to shine!
I would be staying in Myrtle Beach for ten days, and I had already used up two of them. Jim told me that he was staying a few miles north of me and would be hunting both low tides for the next week. I was vacationing with my wife and family and told him that I would hunt the afternoon low tide for the week. We agreed to meet the next afternoon, an hour before low tide, and hunt until dark.
Jim showed up at the appointed time, grinning from ear to ear. He had hunted the 3:00 a.m. tide and been rewarded with a beautiful lady's engagement ring and a man's platinum band! Wow, what a find! He told me that he hunted in the shallow surf just below the low-tide mark in the dark, and even though the air temperature was cool, it was well worth the effort. We hunted the low tide until dark and managed to pick up pocket change, a few earrings and two small sterling rings. Now, I was more determined than ever to break that diamond ring barrier!
We hunted the low tides for the next couple of days with marginal luck. Myrtle Beach is a hard beach to hunt on a good day. It gets a lot of detector traffic and has its share of locals who pound it every day. It is also a beach that is fed by a constant westerly breeze that keeps it sanded in for most of the year. The locals I talked to agreed that pickings are scarce most of the year, but when a Nor'easter blows, watch out! I was told countless stories of the ring finds that occur after a big storm. These only whetted my appetite for that elusive diamond ring.
By Tuesday, the winds began to change, and the effects of Hurricane Ivan were starting to show. The winds began to pick up from the northeast, and the surf was getting rougher. There was also beach erosion- not good for the beach, but a blessing for us! By that afternoon, the low tide showed evidence of major sand movement, and black sand was beginning to show along the Strand.
By Wednesday the beach sand had lowered by at least 2', and I picked up my first man's titanium wedding band. Jim was also finding rings and costume jewelry, and we both were loading up on coins. It seemed as if Lady Luck was going our way.
A call to Phil Alexander put us on to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, about an hour's drive north. Phil said that the beach was quite eroded there, and that he and his hunting partner had picked up some nice rings. So, the next day we made plans to head north.
Jim picked me up at my hotel around lunchtime. This gave us an hour's driving time, a lunch break, and would get us on the beach an hour before low tide. With anticipation running high, we headed north on Highway 17.
As we suited up to hunt, we could see that the beach had been cut 4-5' in some areas. We both headed north from the main pier area and immediately began retrieving coins. Jim hunted the cut sand, and I stayed low at the water's edge, hunting the wet shells. Jim hit a hotspot loaded with coins, and I then moved ahead toward the Wrightsville Holiday Inn.
The tide was nearing its low mark, and I slowly worked the wet shells near the water's edge. Right in front of the hotel I began hitting pulltabs. The area was loaded with crushed shells, and I was starting to wish that I had put on my diving booties. Suddenly, my Minelab Sovereign sang out with a smooth ring-tone sound. I scooped out a chunk of shells and moved back up onto the beach. I dumped the scoop, and as I began scanning the shell debris I spotted a gold band and a sparkle! I leaned down and picked up a lady's gold & diamond engagement ring! Unbelievable! I had finally broken the diamond barrier!
By this time, Jim was heading toward me and motioning that he had made a find. He showed me a man's gold band and a lady's sterling silver ring. He asked me what I had found, and when I showed him the engagement ring he couldn't believe it. He took the ring and kept saying, "Golly! It's a beauty!" I was grinning from ear to ear. It is truly a magic moment when you pull your first diamond out of the sand. After that, we worked our way back to the car and finally called it a day- and what a day it had been!
The rest of my stay in Myrtle Beach was spent hunting the beach near the hotel. I picked up a man's titanium wedding band, some sterling finger and toe rings, and more clad coins. Jim joined me for the low tide hunts, and we finished out the week without any more diamonds.
All in all, it was a fantastic time! It's not often that you get to meet someone like Jim Brouwer. I had found a new friend, shared a week of great detecting, and at last achieved my goal.
Two diamonds, two Jims... two Diamond Jims!JIM PALIANI is a retired police officer from Somerset County, New Jersey