Treasure hunter David Stone has had great luck plucking a wide variety of items from the waters off Wareham, as well as the Caribbean, with an underwater metal detector.


 

There are untold treasures beneath the waves of the world’s oceans. Yet once lost to a watery grave, these riches are often gone forever.


Or are they?


Treasure hunter David Stone has had great luck plucking a wide variety of items from the waters off Wareham, as well as the Caribbean, with an underwater metal detector.


“I’ve found everything from men’s jewelry and women’s jewelry to coins and small toys and trash,” he said. “You never know what you’ll find out there. It’s something new every time you go out.”


Stone, who divides his time between Onset and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies, said he took up his lucrative hobby about six years ago.


“I was never one to just lay around on a beach,” he said.


A self-admitted Type A personality, Stone had been a nature and wildlife photographer before developing products that clean the digital sensors of cameras. His company, Photographic Solutions Inc., became hugely successful, but success only drove him harder.


“I was taking calls on Sundays and on Christmas,” he said. “That was how you made it in business.”


As a way to try and keep himself occupied while his wife relaxed on the beach, Stone said he rented a metal detector and “got hooked.”


“I wanted one that could go in the water,” he said. “I had a lot of fun.”


He eventually bought his own metal detector and began hitting the water.


“I found a lady’s ring about 14 inches down, and I can find lost moorings several feet down,” he said. “It has a nice range of sensitivity.”


His most interesting find to date is an unexploded AK47 bullet.


“I found that in front of the Beaches Resort in knee deep water,” he said. “It’s pretty bizarre.”


He found a rare standing liberty quarter at Onset Beach.


“They don’t make those anymore,” he said.


He also came upon a 1910 dime at Onset Beach, as well as buffalo nickels and mercury dimes.


And because people from all over the world visit the Caribbean, he’s found coins from “just about everywhere” in the water there.


“I’m not talking about valuable collectable coins,” he said. “Just old coins you don’t see much anymore like wheat pennies.”


He’s also found a lot of religious items in Onset such as crucifixes and St. Christopher medals.


His cache includes key chains, hair barrettes and a nitroglycerin container.


“It was silver and the tablets were still in it,” he said.


“And I found this little hummingbird made out of stained glass,” he continued. “I don’t think it’s a piece of jewelry.”


Not everything is worth keeping, however,


“I do find a lot of junk,” he said. “Nails, bottle tops. I have a pouch I put that stuff into and then throw it out when I get back onto the beach. It helps the environment, and also it means I won’t be looking at the same stuff again.”


Stone, whose family has been living in the Onset area for over 50 years, said that every day out in the water is like a new adventure.


“I like to go out to Onset Beach right after bad weather. The waves will have churned up the sand, and you never know what you’ll find.”


What probably brings the most sentiment, however, is the jewelry he finds.


“I come across a lot of jewelry,” he said. “It amazes me what people will wear into the water.”


A lot of the jewelry is inexpensive costume jewelry, but that’s not to say someone didn’t love it and will be sorry it’s gone.


“Most of this stuff isn’t worth any money,” he said. “It’s the sentimental value behind it that matters.”


Sometimes, however, he’ll find something awe-inspiring.


“I have some pieces that are worth something,” he said. “They’ll have precious stones and be made of gold or platinum. You know someone is missing that.”


Surprisingly, or maybe not, he said about 90 percent of the jewelry he finds are men’s wedding bands.


And it’s these personal items that he longs to reunite with their owners.


“A lot of the wedding bands will have engravings and dates,” he said. “And I’ll think, ‘I know how important this ring is to someone.’”


Stone mentioned an engraved platinum wedding ring found at Parkwood Beach, where he used to lifeguard in his youth.


“I’d really like to reunite someone with this long lost ring,” he said.


He also found a very old silver ring in the same Parkwood Beach area with initials on it.


“The ring was made by one of the first women silversmiths in the country,” he said, “Boston-based modernist jeweler Ella L. Cone, designer for and proprietor of The Silversmith's Shop which resided at 342 Boylston St. during the 1950s and 1960s. She had a very successful business with stores in both Boston and on the Cape.”


Stone is so determined to reunite people with their jewelry that he has set up a Web page showcasing some of the items he’s found over the years.


He said he was prompted to start the site after finding three high-quality rings in about 15 minutes while at the Atlantis Paradise Island. He said he tried to work with the resort’s security to match the rings up with the owners.


“But they didn’t have the time,” Stone said. “They said to leave the rings, but I didn’t want to just leave them.”


He realized there was really no way someone could search for his or her lost jewelry.


He said he takes the jewelry he finds and polishes it up and gets it looking nearly as good as new.


“Silver turns completely black,” he said. “Gold and platinum don’t corrode at all.”


Of course he has a method for deterring false claims.


“I’ll have a picture of the piece, but I’ll have it turned a certain way so not everything is visible. Or if there are engravings or initials on the piece, it always helps to be able to use that as another source of identification. Claimants have to show proof in a lot of different ways.”


Simple generic jewelry like bracelets and necklaces and certain rings will be sold off after awhile. He doesn’t part with more valuable pieces and items that are engraved.


“I still hope they’ll be reunited with their owners someday,” he said.


In the meantime, he keeps his treasure trove under tight lock and key. His Buzzards Bay office was once a bank and boasts a vault that is impenetrable.


“It’s all very safe here,” he said, “between the alarm system and the vault.”


As for the coins, he’ll bring the more recent ones to the bank and have them rolled up, and then he’ll chose a charity to donate the money to.


“It’s never really a lot of money,” he said.


For something that started out as a means to help him relax, treasure hunting via water metal detector has almost turned into a second career.


This fall he’ll be working with an archeological expedition doing work in the Turks and Caicos Islands.


“They just found six submerged cannons in six feet of water,” he said. “The scientists think the sea-level is rising. I’ll go out with my metal detector and try to find smaller anomalies.”


He said it’s believed the cannons are several hundred years old.


“It’s fascinating,” he said.


And fun.


“Initially my wife thought I was nuts, but now she’s thrilled,” he said. “It keeps me occupied.”


Visit his Web site at www.ilostmyjewelry.com.