This article is based on a conversation with Michael Oliver, who uses metal detecting equipment to recover lost items in Sydney, Australia. The text has been edited for length and clarity.
When I was 10 years old they gave me a metal detector and a new hobby. I never would have imagined that 2 decades later it would become my job.
Previously, he was a forklift driver in warehouses. He had back injuries and was sick of working at a place that seemed to not care about the employees or the effort they put in. In my free time I was distracted and entertained by metal detecting.
When the volume of jewelry found on the beaches began to increase significantly, I realized that I could turn my passion into my profession.
I’ve been doing it professionally for 7 years. I called my business Lost Jewelry Recovery instead of simply calling it metal detecting service because jewelry is the most frequently requested item by customers to recover.
I have special equipment, not only for metal detection on the ground, but also for escuba diving equipment and underwater detectors.
Searches are not only carried out on the sand, but also in the sea. I can search the shore in shallow water or literally plunge into the depths of the ocean; whatever it takes to recover the client’s lost treasure.
The starting point always depends on where the person last remembers seeing the object, the tide, and the weather.
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The technology of the equipment I use tells me exactly where to dig and how deep
Sometimes I find lost jewelry in 5 minutes or less, but other times, it can take 2 hours. It all depends on the weather conditions, the tides, and if the owner felt the item slip away in a particular location, which gives me an estimate of where it might be.
All the lifeguards in Sydney have my number. My service costs almost 100 euros for 2 hours of searchingsince I have a rate of 90% success.
There are lots of lost rings: engagement rings, wedding rings, family heirlooms…everything. All the pieces are very sentimental, and sometimes also great monetary value.
A man once told me that his wedding ring had cost him more than 3,000 euros. He lost it swimming in the ocean. He secretly called me, hoping I would find him before his wife found out about him. Within an hour she had found it and he had it back in her hand.
I recently found a ring that a mother had given to her daughter before she died. I also get repeat requests. A man called me 2 times to find his missing wedding ring.
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Also a widow lost her late husband’s wedding ring while practicing paddle surfing. They were married 25 years and, since her death 19 years ago, they had never removed their wedding ring, with the word “always” inscribed on it. It was a very emotional reunion.
Reunions are often emotional.
Sometimes the onlookers on the beach who have witnessed the harrowing search burst into spontaneous applause When I find the lost object. Other times, the owner breaks to mourn. I receive many hugs of relief.
They are not just rings. I have recovered a watch gold and diamond rolex whose owner explained to me that it was worth about 6,500 euros. I remember that a woman lost a very expensive bracelet that had been given to her and that had a very rare and precious stone. After the waves hit me and took me out several times, I heard those magical screams.
She described it as a miracle and her partner was so excited that he grabbed me and hugged me so tightly that the bracelet broke: it snapped cleanly in half.
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Once they called me to help a man who wore his father’s ashes around his neck on a crucifixbut that he had lost it after getting into a fight at a party at his house.
Now it’s the height of summer in Sydney and everyone is at the beaches, so I’m busier than ever: I receive up to 6 calls a dayespecially from very crowded beaches.
I’m so busy that II take my mother with me on the item recovery missions. She also loves to search for metals and is capable of spending hours on her knees, determined to find the lost item. She works in a hospital 18 hours a day, but sometimes you can see her on the beach at 4 in the morning.
But that’s in summer. In winter it is another story. I can go a whole month without a single call. I like metal detecting so much that in my spare time I go hunting as a hobby and I make videos of the interesting things I find.
Everything is locked up, but not in my house, because now too many people know where I live. There are thousands of unclaimed jewels there. I have never sold anything because they are not my jewelry, They are other people’s and I’m proud of it.
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Luckily, I found a related side business that I also spend time on: post videos of my recovery missions and emotional reunions on my YouTube channel. Now I have 309,000 subscribers and I get income from ads. On a rainy day, I take the opportunity to edit the videos, which takes a lot of time, but helps me pay the bills.
The best thing about my job is the adrenaline rush I get when an owner has previously stated, “They’ll never find it.” They think it’s already in New Zealand, but it’s never like that. I have hundreds of videos that prove time and time again that your jewelry can be recovered, usually to his great surprise.
I help others find their lost treasures. That’s why I get up every morning: for those reunions. I live for them.