A local woman’s lost family jewelry went from tragic misfortune to happy reunion thanks to another local’s metal detecting hobby.
Elizabeth Flammer thought 2020 was looking up. Her grandmother had recently given her a necklace that had been in the family for decades, and they had just moved across town to a quieter neighborhood.
Flammer and her daughter decided to take advantage of their proximity to the Logan River Trail for an afternoon bike ride. And then, while adjusting her backpack, her necklace broke and the jeweled pendant was flung away.
“I heard the snap and then I just, I couldn’t find it anywhere,” she said. “I had the chain still attached to me, but just that gold piece, which you know, it’s pretty valuable, it’s just that piece that was gone.”
To make matters more difficult, Flammer lost the necklace within the few yards of the trail that are unpaved.
“The start of the trail, it goes into the backyards of people’s houses, and I didn’t want to have to go and get on anybody’s property,” Flammer, who’s new to the area, said.
Flammer and her husband Zakary searched the area for hours, pulling weeds and crawling through the dirt, scouring for the lost heirloom as they tried to beat the coming storm.
In a last-ditch effort, Liz turned to Facebook and put a plea out on the Stay Calm and Share Logan group page asking if anyone in the area had experience metal detecting.
Technology and history converge
Darrin Smith has always been a history buff, and he started metal detecting in the ’80s to unearth lost treasures of the past — mostly in the form of coins.
Over the years he went out less and less, but he’s no stranger to finding jewelry — and trying to track down its owner — though when he first started, it took a lot of legwork to track down the original owners, if it was possible at all.
But that’s half the fun.
“People do this all the time,” Smith said. “We find things that people felt sorrow when they lost them who knows how many years ago. And then we find it. And a lot of the guys who metal-detect, then they feel a bond with that person who’s anonymous.”
If the item was lost more than 50 years ago, Smith said sometimes the owner has already died. But with more recent finds, it’s possible to reunite the treasure with the person who lost it.
Smith said he was able to once track down the owner of a class ring he found in an apartment complex, but it took “detective work” and hours at the library for his then-mother-in-law, but in the end, sending it home was well worth it.
“I got even more,” he said, “Though it was a gold ring, I got more pleasure sending it back to them than I would have if I would have cashed in the gold.”
Thanks to social media and an ever-increasing network of connections, he said it’s getting easier to reunite lost pieces.
“Back when I did it, if you lost something, and you didn’t know anybody metal-detected, you either tried to get one yourself or you were screwed if you couldn’t find it,” he said. “Now, with social media, you can put something out there on certain sites, and you have a large audience. And there’s a chance someone will know of someone who metal-detects.”
This is what happened to the Flammers. Though she didn’t expect to have anyone comment on her post, there were several locals who knew people with metal detectors — including Smith’s ex-wife, who tipped him off immediately.
He sent Liz a message explaining his background and promised if the pendant was there, he’d be able to find it.
Smith arranged to meet the Flammers, and he invited a friend he’d been trying to get into metal detecting to come along.
Within 20 minutes, Smith’s friend had a hit using the less-sensitive detector meant for finding surface items. He pushed aside the weeds and beckoned for Liz to come over.
The sun glistened on the jewels as she reached down, tears in her eyes.
They’d found the tiny pendant just outside of where the Flammers thought it was, tucked in some weeds by a gate lining the trail. On top of the joy of finding the sentimental jewels, Liz said she was grateful to Smith and his friend beyond words.
“He did it just to be helpful, like, he didn’t do it for anything in return,” she said. “He just wanted to help and the fact that somebody stepped up — it’s different because it’s like something small. And that seems so insignificant, but it was so big to me.”
But Smith understands. For him, reuniting history with its owners is the fun of the hobby, as he’s seen several times now.
“I think guys who metal-detect, most of them would want to give back what they found to the original owner, just like I did,” he said. “Knowing that you’ve made someone happy, most guys that metal detect would sooner have that feeling.”
Reinvigorated by his success, Smith put out a call on Facebook to see if there would be interest in forming a local metal detecting group where members could learn non-destructive ways of searching and how to read the equipment.