He’s no leprechaun, but Richard Browne, 66, of South Yarmouth, Mass., sure knows where to find the gold.
As a true metal detector extraordinaire, Browne has found and returned more than 100 gold rings to their owners in the past 30 years.
It all started in 1982 when he bought his first metal detector in Manassas, Va., where the infamous Civil War’s Battle of Bull Run occurred, and he found a few musket balls.
“I found a couple musket balls and other junk in a cow pasture behind a house we owned,” Browne told GoodMorningAmerica.com. “And I came around the side of another house and I said, ‘Well, let me try one more time.’ It worked, and there was a little gold ring there.”
The ring piqued his interest much more than the war artifacts, and he immediately took it into his house to show his wife.
“I took it into the house and I shined it up and I said, ‘Look what I found you.’”
But after discussing it further, they realized it was actually their neighbor’s ring who lost it years prior, and decided to return it.
“Stella got her ring her back and I got a plate of chocolate chip cookies,” Browne says of his first time reuniting someone with their long-lost jewelry.
His hobby took off from there, as he’s now a member of The Ring Finders, a world-wide network of metal detector specialists who help locate and return people’s lost items. Browne’s favorite place to hunt is along the coast of Cape Cod, after it was recommended to him he start searching for hidden treasures in the water.
“One guy said, ‘You have to get off the land and into the water,’” Browne explained. “A few hundred dollars later I have waiders and full fishing gear, headed into the water and I haven’t come out since.”
And despite finding hundreds of rings that mean so much to others, there is one in particular that means the most to him.
“The one ring I have found and I still have it, I enjoy wearing it, is a 1911 U.S. Naval Academy class ring,” said Browne. “After spending 20 years in the navy I said, ‘I can return this.’ But that was in 1994. When you stop to think he was probably 24 when he graduated in 1911, so he’s 80-plus years old, I went back to the navy and found out he passed away in 1956. His wife passed away in 1965. It’s just a beautiful ring and I wear it in honor of him every once in a while.”
Browne says his wife, Jane, whom he met in kindergarten when she kicked sand in his face, is patient when it comes to his passion for metal detecting.
“She’s very understanding. I’ll get an email or something saying, ‘Let’s go to Aruba,’ and I’m gone,” he said. “But in return, she and I are taking a trip up to Alaska for a couple weeks and I’m leaving the detectors home. And of course she gets first pick of anything I can’t return.”
When asked how long Browne plans to continue hunting for treasures, his answer was simple.
“There’s one chap in the Yankee Territory Coinshooters, and I believe he’s 87,” he said. “We took him to Puerto Rico with us about five years ago. Even at age 82, he was down there having a great time. I’d like out-detect him. He’s quite a guy.”