By Jeff Jardine
This is one of those stories that involves the usual combination of odds and circumstances but can be told only because of honesty.
In June 2012, Orange County, California, resident Robyn Giranda took her young son to Pismo Beach near San Luis Obispo, for his first experience riding quads on the sand dunes.
Shortly after they finished the ride, she realised her diamond bracelet — she paid $7,000 for the piece eight years earlier — had vanished.
“What was I thinking, wearing an expensive bracelet while riding a quad?” she told me. “I simply forgot I was wearing it. My son was riding for the first time. I forgot to take it off. I wasn’t wearing any other (jewellery). It wasn’t the only thing I was wearing, but it was the only thing that fell off. There’s no telling when it would have fallen off.”
She and others in her party searched the sand for hours, trying to retrace their route. No such luck. They didn’t find it.
“I was just sick,” she said, “knowing how sand just sucks up stuff.”
Indeed, the dunes along the coast can change by the minute, reshaped by the winds whipping off the Pacific Ocean, augmented by the motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts who enjoy them. What is resting on the surface one moment soon can be a foot deep in the glassy grit.
No matter. At her boyfriend’s insistence, Giranda filed a report with a state park ranger and then returned to her Southern California home saddened, frustrated and absolutely certain she’d never see the bracelet again. “I guess the tradeoff was that my son was happy and healthy out there after his first ride,” she said.
Fast-forward to Presidents Day weekend, when retired firefighter Joe Mingham went to Pismo to ride his own quad.
“The place was crammed — packed with people,” Mingham said. “The wind was blowing so hard that it stung your face.”
So he went out early one morning to beat the crowds. That’s when he caught a glimpse of a piece of metal partially embedded in the sand. He stopped, picked it up and looked closely.
You guessed it: a bracelet.
“I stuck it in my pocket,” he said.
Back home, he took the bracelet to Brad Wimberly at Ciccarelli’s Jewellers in Modesto to have it cleaned.
“The sand had beaten the metal to a dullness,” Wimberly said.
Wimberly’s wife, Rosie, took a look at it, too.
“Rosie said, ‘You have no idea of what you’ve got there,’” Mingham said.
“A tennis bracelet to the 10th power,” Brad Wimberly called it.
They sent the piece off to be appraised, and it floored Mingham to learn the bracelet is now worth nearly $20,000. The price of the gold alone has quadrupled since 2005, store owner Greg Ciccarelli said.
Quite a find, indeed, Mingham thought. Just one problem: It wasn’t his. And if he entertained any thoughts of simply selling the piece and pocketing the windfall, Rosie Wimberly gave him something else to consider.
“There’s some girl out there crying her eyes out,” she said.
So Mingham began his detective work by contacting the Pismo Beach Police Department, which told him it doesn’t handle non-crime issues at the state park and instead referred him to an agency in Monterey. Monterey sent him to the State Parks Department in Sacramento, which, going full circle, told him to contact ranger Lindsey Phillips at — drum roll, please — Pismo Beach.
When they finally spoke, indeed Phillips remembered that a woman had reported losing a bracelet at the park.
Phillips pulled the report and contacted Giranda.
“Normally, I don’t answer blocked calls, but this one I answered,” Giranda said. “(Phillips) identified herself and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but somebody may have found your bracelet.’”
Giranda then described the bracelet in great detail and even e-mailed a photo of herself wearing it. She knew it was 18-karat white gold with two rows of princess diamonds and weighed nine total carats.
At that point, Phillips simply gave Mingham and Giranda each other’s e-mail addresses. They connected last week and talked several times on the phone.
“It’s definitely mine,” Giranda said. “Amazing. And it was awesome of Joe — first that he found the needle in the haystack, so to speak, and then that he went to such great lengths to contact somebody. He was referred four or five times before he got to (Phillips).”
It’s just as amazing to Mingham.
“What are the odds of going on a motorcycle ride, finding a bracelet and then finding the owner?” he wondered.
Let’s take it to another level: What are the odds of a bracelet being plucked from a sand dune in a state park, and by someone honest enough to persevere in finding the owner?
Giranda drove six hours from Orange County to Modesto. They met at Ciccarelli’s, where Mingham stored the bracelet for safe keeping. After many phone conversations and e-mails, they were like longtime friends.
Obviously, she was as thrilled to have it back as Mingham was to return it. “I never thought I’d see it again,” she said. “I cannot believe you found it!”
To do anything else but trying to return it would have been out of character, said Steve Mingham, Joe’s brother. “Our father taught us right from wrong,” he said, “and to do the right thing.”
Joe refused to accept a reward, so Giranda took him to lunch and promises to take him to dinner soon in Pismo Beach. “Good ending,” Joe Mingham said. “Everybody’s happy. The most important thing is that I made a friend.” — The Modesto Bee/MCT