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John Favano spends about eight hours a week metal detecting on the areas beaches.  

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NORTH WILDWOOD - While some people may think they are “scavengers,” those on the beach using a metal detector are likely looking for someone’s rings, usually their engagement or wedding bands.

According to John Favano, 46, who first got hooked on metal detecting with his great-uncle as a kid visiting North Wildwood beaches, helping people find lost items is “heartwarming and joyful."

“Sometimes when I am on the beach, I hear people say, ‘Here comes the scavengers.’ What they don’t realize is that much of the time, I am looking for someone’s lost item,” he said.

During the Fourth of July weekend, he noted, he had five recoveries on Avalon, Wildwood Crest, Sea Isle City and Stone Harbor beaches. 

“One lady called and said she lost her wedding band at high tide, so we waited until low tide and eventually found her ring in 4 feet of water,” he recalled.

“Another woman left her two wedding rings on the beach, so when we finally connected later that day, we eventually found them,” he added. “We got really lucky.”

“I tell people they shouldn’t post the exact location on social media because other metal detectors, pirates, will look for it and likely keep it,” he added. “I tell people to remember what time they lost it because then we know what the tides were like, to look for any permanent markers on the beach as reference. The more information I have, the better.”

Metal detecting started as a hobby for Favano, who lives in Wilmington, Delaware, but spends much of the summer with friends in North Wildwood. He is also a chef manager in a corporate setting, so he spends most of his time metal detecting on the weekends. 

A friend of his did metal detecting and helped Favano buy equipment when he decided to get serious about it in 2013. 

“Once you find your first quarter, you think‘wow,’” Favano recalled, “but the previous 20 minutes that you were looking for something, it’s boring. I still have that first quarter, but now I find lots of quarters and change. It’s exciting when you find something that someone lost, like their rings.”

The metal detector sends radio waves 15-18 inches deep into the sand, depending on conditions. Favano wears headphones as he listens to the beeps. The pitch and frequency of the beeps depend on the type of material it is. Wearing headphones silences any outside noise that might interfere with his hearing changes in the signal.

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John Favano, left, finds a platinum wedding band, belonging to Danielle, pictured here with her husband, Nick, on the beach in Wildwood Crest. 

“The beeps give you a numerical readout which doesn’t tell you that something is gold, but it tells you that it is within a range that could be gold, or something else,” Favano explained. “You have to decide whether you want to make the effort to dig it up.”

Favano said if he is looking on behalf of someone for a lost item, he always digs it up. If he is just treasure hunting for himself, he digs it up about 90% of the time.

“I like to detect for myself eight hours a week, or as much as I can,” he said. “When it's a ring-finding session, it takes top priority and most of my time. In the almost five years I’ve been a ring finder, I’ve helped at least 60 people find lost items, which includes helping people when I'm out just detecting. 

“If I find something, like a class ring that can be identified, I try to locate its owner,” he noted.

The “most interesting” find he’s had was when he was on a beach in Avalon, and the beeps indicated the item could be gold. 

“I dug it up, and it was really sandy, so I just put it in my pouch to clean up later,” he said. “I thought it might be a fishing sinker. When I got home and washed it, it was a dental bridge with the teeth still in it. It did have silver and gold in it, too.”

At home with his wife, he displays many of his unique findings on a shelf. 

“Ring finding is really a hobby for me,” he said, noting he is a member of Ring Finders South Jersey, “because I enjoy helping others, and this way, people will continue to enjoy their vacation despite having lost something precious to them.”

To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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