— -- A woman said she had given up hope of finding her diamond wedding ring after it slipped off her finger into the ocean -- until she met the man she now says is “like a gift from God.”
Rosa and Rudy Pineda, of Visalia, California, were at their favorite spot called Shell Beach, located in Pismo Beach, California, with their whole family playing around on the rocks last month when Rosa's cellphone fell out of her pocket.
“The tide was coming in and when I stepped down the sand was so soft that I sank,” Rosa, 36, explained to ABC News. “I kind of fell in the water. And when I did that, my phone fell into the water. I’m digging into the sand for my phone and after about what seemed like an hour, but was only probably five minutes, I finally found my phone.”
Rosa rushed off to the store to try to repair her phone, but it didn’t take long before she realized that wasn’t the worst of her problems.
“When I went up to the cash register to pay, I noticed my ring was gone,” she said. “I just looked up at my husband and started crying. I just started bawling. I was devastated.”
That night they called the jewelry store to see how much it would be to replace her ring because she thought, “Who’s going to find it in the middle of the ocean?”
But her husband suggested another idea. He began searching online for metal detectors and came across a man named Larry Royal who is a member of a website called TheRingFinders.com, an online directory for metal detecting specialists.
“My husband immediately calls him up and was like, ‘Do you think you can find it?’ And he said, ‘If you tell me the exact location you lost it, I guarantee you 99.9% I can find it.’”
Impressed by Royal’s confidence, they met him at Shell Beach the following day with a photo of the ring.
“I agreed to meet them down there. She knew exactly where it had come off,” said Royal, 65. “But it was an incoming tide and there was a foot of dead seaweed in the water.”
Royal said he kept searching for 19 long days, until he hit jackpot.
"The area where she had dropped it was all dry sand, so I started searching and went out probably thigh-deep and I’m pushing my metal detector around the edges of the rocks and I got a signal. It was tucked under a ledge probably about 10 feet from where she lost it. I knew it was a ring. I knew it was something good. I got in there and dug it out, and when I pulled it out there was the ring in my basket.”
This was the 38th ring Royal said he has found combing the beaches this year alone.
“In January, I found an 18-karat ring with rubies around it. I average between 20 and 60 rings a year,” he said of his hobby. “I have two daughters and a granddaughter and two grandsons that have more jewelry than a person ought to have. My girlfriend is wearing a 3/4-karat diamond I found a year ago.”
The interesting thing about Royal, however, is that he doesn’t earn any profit from this otherwise lucrative pastime. He doesn’t pawn the jewelry and he doesn’t charge people when they enlist his help.
“I find it and then it’s a strictly reward basis. You pay me what it was worth to get it back,” he explained. “I’ve always tried to return stuff when I could.”
Needless to say, when Rosa got the phone call that her precious diamond wedding ring would be returned right before her 16th wedding anniversary on Oct. 24, she was ecstatic.
“He told me he found my ring and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot believe this!’” she said.
The relieved couple met with Royal on Sept. 30 to return the ring to Rosa’s finger, paying him the $300 that she had in savings while she’s been out of work.
“He gave me my ring and I just can never stop thanking that man,” she said. “The best part of it all was that we trusted a complete stranger and it paid off. He didn’t have to give it back to me. He is amazing. He told me to never give up hope. I’m going to thank him every day from now on. If it wasn’t for him, my life would not be complete.”
But Royal said he simply does this work for the satisfaction of getting the items returned, even donating a portion of his rewards to charity each month.
“Many, many years ago, when I was a young man and my family was just starting out, as with a lot of people, we had our ups and downs and financial problems,” he said. “There was a food bank organization that helped my family. Now I take 10% of my reward money as charity to them every month.”
Rosa wasn’t surprised to learn that about Royal one bit.
“There’s still good people out there. There are good honest, people and I wish there were more people like Larry,” she said. “That man is just something else. He’s like a gift from God. God sent him to me. He’s just amazing, amazing, amazing. There’s just something about him, after we’ve gotten to know him, we’ve never met someone with such a big heart.”