11/05/2012 11:25 am ET

Valerie Lynch Finds Diamond Ring Lost For 17 Years

A Massachusetts woman got a surprise anniversary present last week when the diamond engagement ring that she lost 17 years ago while visiting her sister's house in Plymouth was found by an amateur metal detection enthusiast.

Valerie Lynch lost the ring and her wedding band after she removed them to slather sunscreen on her children before a trip to the beach. The loss left her "devastated," Lynch told WBZ TV in Boston. Her husband Mike, who gave the ring to her a few years earlier also "was very upset."

Although the band was found a few years later, the engagement ring defied many sweeps by metal detectors and the Bridgewater woman eventually came to terms that it was probably gone forever.

But then last week, Lynch's sister Vicki Belanger, at whose house the ring was lost, enlisted a local metal detecting hobbyist to look again.

After just 40 minutes of searching in Belanger's yard, Kent Blethen detected the ring buried beneath more than an inch of dirt.

On Friday, he was on hand with family and friends at Belanger's Plymouth home when the ring was finally returned in time for Lynch's 21st wedding anniversary next week.

“I was in complete shock – absolute shock. I just keep looking at it now, and I just can’t even believe it's on my finger,” Lynch told WBZ. “It’s more beautiful than I ever remember.”

And, as she told the Patriot Ledger “In my mind, it was gone forever.”

Blethen, who belongs to a local treasure seekers club, said that the 1.2-carat marquise diamond ring has been appraised at about $5,000.

But in his 15 years as a hobbyist scouring beaches on Cape Cod and Massachusetts's South Shore and finding other wedding rings as well as class rings and even crematory tags, he's rarely asked for monetary compensation.

“I charge everyone a picture and that’s it,” Blethen said. “The look on their faces is priceless.”