Apr 28, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Staff WriterSome might call it a fish story with many levels of meaning behind the word "fish." Many have heard of missing rings, jewelry and small personal items inexplicably showing up years after they've disappeared.
One outlandish story, bordering on an urban legend, came five years ago in Texas. Joe Richardson graduated from a Houston area high school in 1987 and promptly lost his $200 class ring two weeks later.
The ring faded into the memory of the automotive mechanic until 2008 when an anonymous fisherman contacted him. The fisherman found Richardson's ring inside an eight-pound large-mouth bass he caught while fishing at Lake Sam Rayburn.
Richardson declined to clean the ring, preferring to keep the amazing keepsake in the condition it was found.
While this story takes the concept of missing jewelry to the extreme it is all in a day's work for a jeweler to replace missing stones or match a missing necklace or lone earring to a set.
Riverton's Jerome Hutchison, a master jeweler, and the owner of the Golden Buffalo, has seen many examples of this in his career.
"Maybe the most interesting story I've encountered came from a rural Riverton woman who lost the diamond in her wedding ring," Hutchison said.
The woman was packing for a holiday trip to Montana and noticed as she prepared to get into her family pickup truck that her diamond was missing. The family was trying to beat an oncoming winter storm and took just a few minutes to look in obvious places for the missing diamond but to no avail.
They set off for the several hundred mile trip to Montana with little hope of recovering the precious gem.
The trip was a typical drive on wintry roads across the Cowboy and Big Sky states, with slush and dirt coating the truck.
After a few days in Montana she returned to her truck and noticed a glint of light on the passenger side running board as she prepared to climb in. She looked more closely, and there her missing diamond.
She took it to Hutchison and he repaired the setting to new condition.
"That's pretty amazing to find something as small as a diamond on the running board of a truck after a winter's drive," Hutchison said.
Other tales involve the loss of many rings. One of the most common is the ring being eaten by the family dog or a puppy. In this case the owner can X-ray the dog to verify the ring is in its digestive system. If it's there all the owner has to do is follow the dog around for a few days and collect each "specimen" it drops. Hutchison said going through dog droppings with a fork is the best method of discovering the lost ring. Most people in this predicament recover the ring, he added.
As you might guess, the jeweler's role in this process is to do a thorough cleaning of the ring once it's been discovered.
Cleaning a ring is a relatively simple process but the another common jewelry disaster isn't nearly so easy.
"We've had customers who have dropped a ring into a running garbage disposal," Hutchison said. "Most of the time the ring is completely destroyed."
But, not all the time.
Recently Hutchison received the remnants of a wedding ring that fell into a garbage disposal. All the broken parts placed in a plastic bag.
The stones were had been dislodged, and "the ring was bent and most of the prongs were broken," Hutchison said.
Amazingly, only one diamond was missing from the complex mix of diamonds and emeralds.
Hutchison replaced the missing diamond with an identical match, repaired the ring, and reset the stones in new prongs, restoring the ring to its original state.
Careless treatment of jewelry is asking for trouble, according to the jeweler.
"Gloves are notorious for catching a stone," Hutchison said. "Sometimes a stone is lost when pulling clothes out of a dryer as well."
Hutchison's sister, Leanna Fuhrer, who works at the Golden Buffalo, wasn't exempt from losing her own jewelry.
She arrived at work one Monday morning and discovered a diamond was missing from her own ring. She had traveled the previous weekend and contacted all the stores and gas stations she had been to but to no avail. Then a glint caught her eye on the floor of the Golden Buffalo near the front display case.
The stone had been missing for several days and was in plain sight but numerous customers and store employees never noticed it.
Hutchison described a simple but effective method for finding missing stones that are dropped or misplaced in the store. "We turn out all the lights and shine a flashlight across the floor," Hutchison said. "We've found every one we've dropped that way."
While searching for lost diamonds can be an exasperating experience, it can often be quickly resolved without the use of a fishing rod.
"Keep your eye open for twinkles," Hutchison concluded.
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