Meet the American who searches for people’s lost jewellery in France

He recently reunited a British holidaymaker with a family heirloom that he lost on a beach. ‘I do it to put a smile on people’s faces,’ he said

Larry Griffith, left, found the precious ring, pictured under water with his detector, for Olli Wells, right, after hours of searching
Published Last updated

A retired man from California who is now living in France is putting his metal-detection hobby to good use - reuniting people with precious pieces of jewellery they have lost.

Larry Griffith, 78, a retired insurance claims-specialist, has recently, for example, reunited a British man with a ring from his late grandmother which he had lost while on holiday in Fréjus, a town west of Cannes.

Mr Griffith spent the night looking for the ring on the beach where the man had been and found it in shallow water after many hours of searching.

He is the only France-based member of the international organisation Ring Finders and said: “I don’t do it for profit, it’s really just to put a smile on people’s faces.

“If I find the ring, they can pay me whatever they think it’s worth. It could be €50, it could be €150, I never challenge what another person can afford.”

Life imitates art

For Olli George Wells, a 25 year-old musician from London, the ring's value was more emotional than monetary.

“My grandmother gave it to my mother, and my mother gave it to me when I was eight,” he said. “I have a very clear memory of that, and it was always my worst nightmare to lose it.”

Mr Wells was filming a music video with his friends when the ring slipped off his finger. He had to catch a flight back to the UK that same evening, but he hoped that he would be able to return later to find it. While looking online for help, he stumbled upon the Ring Finders, where he managed to get in contact with Mr Griffith.

“I lost my grandparents quite young,” he said, “The ring has so much value as a bond. I was relieved to get it back.”

The ring actually holds so much significance for him that he often mentions it in his music where he performs under the pseudonym of Jorj Sabio.

“The ironic part is that I was planning on filming a music video where I would throw a ring in a pond at the end. Not the real ring, of course, but it’s funny how life imitates art,” he said. “There’s got to be a metaphor in there.”

A long-time metal detector enthusiast

Mr Griffith was born in Placerville, California, the town that started the Gold rush of 1848. Out of interest for that event, he grew up with a keen passion for metal detectors. He rekindled that hobby when he retired with his wife to Provence.

He started searching for lost jewellery after a young woman asked for his help while he was metal detecting on a busy beach in Toulon during the day.

“I gave it a shot, and luckily I was able to find her jewellery,” he said. “People had gathered around and started clapping when I found it. It was nice.”

Shortly after, he was referred to the Ring Finders, an international directory that helps people find metal detector specialists near them. Although there are professional businesses that could provide a similar service, 99% of Ring Finder members are volunteers.

“Quite often I go to the beaches at night, from 2:00 to 5:00 just to see what I’ll find. I have around 31 gold rings now.”

Read also: Hunt is on for American's family after WW2 bag found in French loft

Who you gonna call? Ring Finders!

The Ring Finders website was founded in 2009 by Christopher Turner, a metal detecting enthusiast from Vancouver, in Canada. He created the directory with the intent of making it a global network of people anyone could reach to help recover precious and sentimental items.

“Collectively, The Ring Finders members are responsible for finding and returning close to 11,000 lost rings to date,” Mr Turner told The Connexion. “I have always said that every ring has an amazing story attached to it, that story ends when the ring is lost!”

Although there are hundreds of members across the US and U.K, Mr Griffith is the only one in France. If someone requires his help outside of the southern half of the country, he says they should call a local club, such as the Fédération Française de détecteurs de métaux.

“I don’t think many people know about us here,” Mr Griffith said. “But I’m sure they need our help, especially in summer.”

To give the Ring Finders more visibility, Mr Turner said that he is planning on making a documentary series. “My dream is to see over one Million Smiles on TheRingFinders’ Book of Smiles,” he said.

Read also

The pioneering Brit who was French town’s first foreign councillor

Meet British singer-songwriter Terry Scott Jr, based in Normandy

Meet Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, the guardian of the French language