Dave Sheldon makes a living searching for lost rings.
The 38-year-old Kihei resident has returned more than 600 personal items to people who have lost their belongings - mostly men's wedding bands - found mainly underwater offshore of Maui.
Sheldon is the owner of Dave's Metal Detecting, an underwater and land-based metal detecting business, which goes beyond locating wedding rings.
Kihei resident Dave Sheldon poses with rings he found in the waters off Maui. He makes a living finding lost valuables in Maui’s nearshore waters.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
He has been called out to look for dentures, teeth and prescription glasses that had fallen into the ocean. He also found a four-karat diamond ring that had been a 40th anniversary gift worth $60,000 to $80,000.
But his latest find came accidentally.
Last month, Sheldon was cruising around with his underwater metal detector gear at Kapalua Bay when he came across a 1958 Baldwin High School class ring.
"That is completely amazing," Sheldon said after learning how long ago the ring went missing. "It was 52, 53 years ago."
On land, it would be easy to find something in a spot where it had been lost 100 years ago, he said. But in the ocean, it's far more difficult because of currents and many other variables that change the bottom of nearshore waters all the time.
The ring was found in about 3 feet of water and around 15 to 20 feet from shore. It had the initials A.Y. inscribed on it along with the graduation date.
Sheldon called Baldwin High School officials for help and eventually got the name of the graduate from staffers who looked through old yearbooks.
The ring belonged to 72-year-old Annette Yoda of Wailuku.
"It took me almost a few seconds before I realized that I had lost my ring," Yoda said of her conversation with Sheldon.
"I was so astounded and shocked. It was unbelievable after all these years. Actually, the ring is in real good condition," she said in a telephone interview last week.
The retired schoolteacher had the ring for less than a year when she lost it. She cannot remember when or how she lost it, but she suspects it could have been at Fleming Beach, where she used to picnic with family members or her church group.
After losing her ring, Yoda said that she wasn't melancholy and accepted its loss.
She said she could not ask her parents to buy another one because they had a "hard time" financially, and her parents had already had to save money for her to get the ring in the first place.
Yoda is the sixth of seven children.
Although Yoda doesn't wear jewelry anymore, she said the ring "still fits" and has it hanging at her favorite sitting spot at her home.
Sheldon did not want a search fee or "reward" from Yoda, but he wanted her to tell her story.
He normally charges between $60 to $80 to conduct a search for a missing item.
If and when he finds an item, the person could give him a "reward," which he said he doesn't put a price on but tells his customers it's whatever they think it's worth.
The highest reward Sheldon has received was $1,500 for finding a woman's $35,000, 2-karat diamond ring that was given as a 20th anniversary gift.
The 1992 Baldwin High School graduate also owns a valet company.
Sheldon said that his interest in searching for lost items in the ocean was sparked after he was called to the beach by a lifeguard friend to look for missing jewelry.
That was back in the early 2000s. After being called by his friend several times for about a year, Sheldon said he could see that he could make a living hunting for items missing in the ocean.
He went online to look for metal detecting equipment. All he had previously was snorkel gear.
Sheldon still uses his snorkel gear and relies on his underwater metal detector, which looks like a weed whacker. He has headphones that buzz loudly whenever he goes over metal underwater. While he also searches on dry land, he specializes in finding valuables lost underwater.
Sometimes people cry when he finds their items, Sheldon said. Sometimes they hug him. Sometimes he gets a standing ovation from beachgoers who know what he's doing.
Sheldon said he believes his overall success rate is 65 to 70 percent, but when people pinpoint exactly where they believe they lost their item, his percentage jumps to 90 percent and higher.
Sheldon keeps any accidentally found jewelry that is unique, has stones in it or has an inscription. Others are sold to a metals refinery on the Mainland.
Another memorable find came several years ago when he came across a ring that he had starting searching for three years earlier. On March 28, 2004, a couple had just gotten engaged a day earlier, and the woman was admiring her ring along the shore at Kamaole Beach Park III. That's when the tide came in and a wave rushed toward her. In a panic, she tossed the ring.
Sheldon got called that evening, but he was working at his valet job and couldn't come right away. Later that night, he searched but couldn't find the ring.
Nearly three years later, on Jan. 30, 2007, Sheldon noticed that the beach at Kamaole had eroded, and he remembered the ring. He went searching and found it.
It was a few weeks before Valentine's Day, and Sheldon was able to return the 0.85-karat diamond platinum engagement ring to the husband in Ohio to give to his wife on the holiday.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.