Jewelry and coins are the two most common items found with metal detectors. There is an abundance of lost jewelry out there waiting to be found. Items from gold and platinum rings to silver bracelets, to diamond rings are all buried out there.
This article will give you 50 tips to get you started metal detecting for jewelry.
Below, check out the interactive guide to view five of the more popular metal detectors available on Amazon:
|XP Deus Wireless||$$$||11” DD Coil|
|Garrett AT Max||$$$||Waterproof to 10 feet|
|Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV||$||8” Waterproof Coil|
1) Why Detect for Jewelry?
Metal detecting for jewelry is a great hobby! Lost jewelry can be found in many different locations. Almost all metal detectors will detect gold, silver, platinum, and bronze. Even if the jewelry you find is old, it can still be worth money. Plus, you can always start a collection or sell unique jewelry you find!
2) Plan Your Trip
Every successful metal detecting trip starts with a good plan. Choose your location, equipment, and supplies so you’re not hunting for a place to detect instead of hunting for loot! Planning your trip will save you time, gas, and frustration, and you will enjoy your trip more!
Part of proper planning involves making sure you have the right detector by your side.
Research your local area or chosen search area to get a good idea of where you should be looking. There are many places where lost jewelry can be found, so do some research to ensure you know where to go to find success.
4) Choose the Right Metal Detector
Most metal detectors are designed to find gold, silver, platinum and bronze. There are, however, different types of machines. Very low frequency (VLF) metal detectors are the most common.
Pulse induction (PI) metal detectors are another option, although they can be more expensive and heavier than VLF machines. Ultimately, choose a machine that is right for you and your needs.
5) VLF Detector
VLF detectors are the most common detectors out there and very easy to use. If you are searching in an area with highly mineralized soil or saltwater, these detectors may not work as well as a PI machine. Saltwater is highly conductive and can cause the metal detector to malfunction.
Some VLF models have manual or automatic ground balancing, which helps tremendously in these soil conditions. If you will be searching these areas, and want a VLF machine, be sure it has good ground balancing.
VLF machines work well in freshwater areas, so long as the search coil is waterproof. Some models are fully submersible. Most VLF detectors also have specific settings for jewelry, so it will automatically discriminate iron targets out.
6) PI Detector
PI metal detectors typically search deeper than VLF machines and are much better in highly mineralized soils and saltwater beach areas. PI detectors can be heavier and more expensive than VLF machines. If you will be searching a saltwater beach, one of the best areas to find lost jewelry, a PI machine will work very well.
PI machines are typically used by more experienced detectorists, but there are machines that work well for more intermediate detectorists.
7) Best Metal Detector Brands
There are many brands that produce amazing metal detectors. My top recommendations for the best metal detector for jewelry are:
Each of these companies produce fantastic metal detectors. Garrett, Nokta/Makro, and Tesoro all manufacture VLF and PI metal detectors. Fisher Labs and Teknetics do not produce PI machines but offer models with great ground balancing that work well in mineralized soils and saltwater beaches.
Fisher Labs is reportedly working on a new PI machine called the Impulse AQ, which will hopefully be available soon.
8) Choose the Right Search Coil
Some metal detectors have interchangeable search coils. Larger search coils will find larger targets at a deeper range, but smaller coils will fit into smaller spaces and operate smoother in highly mineralized soils. Concentric search coils search deeper than wide scan coils but will not discriminate the same. Research the best type of search coil for the area you will be searching.
You may want to take along a pinpointer when detecting for jewelry. Pinpointers are easier to get into small places. You also must dig a larger hole if you only have a full-sized metal detector.
Many pinpointers are waterproof and can be used at the beach. Most metal detectors have a pinpoint mode, but handheld models are easier to pinpoint your target.
Besides your detecting equipment, there are several accessories that will make your trip more successful. You will want good digging equipment. I recommend a good metal detecting shovel and a good hand trowel. You don’t want to skimp on these accessories, as cheaper products will eventually break.
A backpack to carry your smaller gear and accessories, as well as supplies is recommended. I also like to take a separate finds pouch to carry all my loot in. If you will be in an area known for a lot of trash, you will want a separate pouch or sack to carry out trash in. If you will be searching in wooded areas or areas with hard packed soil, you may want to wear gloves to keep your hands from scraping on rocks or hitting the ground.
- You might also want to read: 10 Metal Detecting Accessories Needed for Treasure Hunting
11) Read Reviews Before Purchasing
I like to look up video and testimonials from many users to see what the pros and cons of each machine are. You can also read some of our metal detector reviews, as well.
12) Read Your Manuals
It is easy to disregard the manuals that come with new items. However, it is highly recommended that you read the manuals thoroughly for your metal detector and pinpointer. I keep my manual with my detector in the bag.
It has a handy chart showing what the most likely target is based on the number and tone emitted from the detector. It has helped me learn to separate the different yet similar sounds of different targets.
13) Test your Metal Detector at Home
I recommend, as do many metal detector manuals, that you test your detector at home using several types of metal. Find a gold ring or piece of gold, dime, nickel, penny, quarter, and piece of iron and run each item across the search coil. Notice the sound and display (if your model has an LCD screen) each item makes. This is a good way to familiarize yourself with your machine.
14) Take Someone Else Along
If you are in a public place, detecting alone is fine. But if you are going somewhere remote, like the woods or a ghost town, it is a good idea to bring someone else with you. There are a lot of situations that can arise where you may need help. Plus, it is always nice to have some company! My family likes to detect together, so we load everyone up, including the dogs, and head out on our adventures.
15) Consider Headphones
Get yourself a handy pair of metal detecting headphones. They can help you hear faint signals, or signals hiding underneath larger iron targets. Most metal detectors have a headphone jack, while others come with Bluetooth connectivity.
When in populated areas you should wear headphones (or turn your volume down) so as not to bother others. When in areas like the woods, I don’t recommend headphones simply because you need to remain completely aware of your surroundings in these areas.
16) Don’t Forget the Batteries!
I always recommend taking along several extra batteries for your equipment. Some metal detectors have rechargeable batteries, but these models often have AA or 9-volt backup power supplies. Other detectors require AA or 9-volt batteries for all power.
If you are in a highly mineralized area (especially with a VLF detector) the minerals can cause your detector to act erratically. This drains the battery quicker and may reduce battery life. Always make sure you take at least one set of extra batteries for each item requiring them.
17) Use a Checklist
I recommend using a checklist to keep yourself organized before your trip. Make a list of all the gear, accessories, and supplies you will need. This helps you not forget something.
18) Know the Laws
Each state has its own laws regarding metal detecting. Federal and state lands are typically off limits. Always research the metal detecting laws in your chosen area.
If you are ever in doubt, do a quick search of your locality’s government page online, or go in person to a ranger station and ask. You can receive some hefty fines for metal detecting in areas where it is forbidden.
19) Where to Search
The best places to search for jewelry are beaches, rivers, camping/picnic sites, abandoned or old house sites, old travel routes, under bridges, and yards. You may even know of or stumble upon a ghost town! Some of these may require permission to hunt, so be sure you aren’t trespassing and that you have any permits you might need!
Beaches are one of the best places to search for jewelry. People often wear rings, watches, bracelets, necklaces and earrings while at the beach. They may take them off or lose them in the sand or water. That makes beaches a rich source of lost jewels!
21) Grid the Beach
To make it easier to search, grid the beach. Stay parallel to the water and step one or two feet away from the water line. This helps you cover as much ground as possible. Slightly overlap your previous search area to make sure any faint signals aren’t ignored.
22) Search the Towel Line
The towel line is where most beachgoers lay their towels. They are typically in a line, or a clustered area on the beach. Note where most people lay their towels and belongings and search these areas.
23) Search the Waterline
Along the waterline is a good place to search. As the waves come in, they pound against the beach. Waves often carry items and sand, so something could be buried along the waterline.
24) Depth of Lost Beach Items
Typically, items close to the soft, sandy surface of the beach are more recently lost. Older targets will be buried deeper due to the changing beachscape. If you are after older jewelry, you will likely be digging deeper. I recommend a sand scoop for beach digging, as it is difficult to dig a hole in sand!
25) Clean Saltwater off Your Equipment
Saltwater left on equipment can be damaging.
If you’ve been metal detecting in and around saltwater, you should clean your equipment well to ensure a longer life for your equipment.
26) Popular Swimming Holes
Many areas have local swimming holes where people gather. These, like traditional beaches, are great places to find jewelry.
As with beaches, people often take jewelry camping. They may lose them around the campsite. One of my favorite places to check is around fire pits. Look for flat areas around campsites where tents, campers, and vehicles may have been. Be sure you know the laws for metal detecting and digging in camping areas.
When in the forest, you can find many areas where human activity took place. Look for areas of forest land that has been cleared but is surrounded by other trees. This was likely a homesite, cabin site, or camping site.
Search for the largest tress, as they are often the oldest. Tree roots can move things along with their growth, so scan away from trees a few feet.
Rivers are another popular recreation area. Lost items are almost guaranteed to be found in and around most popular rivers. I have seen jewelry, cell phones, sunglasses, coins, keys, and all sorts of other items found in rivers. Search your local area for rivers where people recreate and check these areas.
Be sure to check around and under any bridges you come across, so long as the water is too swift or too deep. Also make sure your detector is waterproof (at least the coil).
If the river is swift moving or quite deep in places, I would recommend a fully submersible metal detector just in case you drop it, or it gets pulled away from you. Always make sure your detector is attached to your person in some way when detecting in moving water.
30) Picnic Sites
Many state and city parks have picnic areas for people to enjoy. As with other recreational areas, things are continuously lost in picnic areas. Make sure you pay attention to state, local, and federal laws while searching these areas. Some state parks allow detecting and digging, while other prohibit such activities.
31) Abandoned House Sites
There are many homes and cabins that have been abandoned. These areas are always a good choice for metal detecting. Jewelry is a common find at these areas. People would sometimes bury valuables somewhere on the property or stash them inside chimneys or foundation stones. If you come across an abandoned home site or cabin property, make sure you are not trespassing, or that you have the landowner’s permission to search the area.
Also be aware that these buildings can be dangerous, and you should take precautions if you plan to enter them. If these areas are in the woods, make sure you are not on federal property and that detecting in legal in the area.
32) Old Travel Routes
Old travel routes are a great place to search for jewelry. Here in the western U.S., we have many pioneer trails that were used to shuttle people from east to west. These routes can be rich with jewelry from travelers, traders, and people who lived and camped along the routes.
Again, be sure you are not trespassing and follow all laws (I realize I have mentioned this repeatedly, but you will be slapped with a hefty fine if you do not follow all laws. “I didn’t know” is not a viable defense! It is your responsibility to know and follow all laws regarding detecting.)
People’s yards, including your own, are great places to find old jewelry. If you are searching for old jewelry, and know of an old house with property nearby, ask the property owner’s permission to search their yard. If they say you may detect there, check along walkways, near trees and wells, and around the foundation of the house.
Once these areas have been checked, you should scan as much of the property as possible. As with the beach, create a grid in your head and follow it to maximize coverage.
34) Ghost Towns
Here in the west, we have a lot of abandoned or ghost towns. These areas were once populated, high energy locations with lots of human traffic. Most of these areas were active during gold or silver rushes, so there was a lot of money floating around these towns.
Not only are they incredibly interesting to search, but they are likely locations of lost jewelry!
35) Learn to Dig Plugs
Learning to properly dig a plug when hunting in grassy areas will reduce the damage to the ground and leave the landowner happier with you. A properly dug plug can be easily replaced, and it won’t look like any digging has occurred. You don’t typically need a huge hole, so a smaller plus is easy to dig and easy to replace.
36) Be Prepared to Find Trash
It is inevitable: Anywhere humans have gone, their trash has been left behind. It is a sad reality, but a reality, nonetheless. I always take a separate container for trash, as everywhere I search there are trash targets. Don’t get discouraged by the amount of trash you find. If there is trash, it is further proof that human activity has happened in the area.
Under and mixed in with all that trash are valuable targets. After digging up about a dozen nails, 2 or 3 dozen bullet casings, about a million soda cans and pull tabs (slight exaggeration, but not by much!), I found pieces of silver. It is out there! Don’t give up!
37) Hunt After Rain
Hunting after a rainstorm can increase your chances of finding jewelry. Wet ground is more conductive than dry ground, so you may find more treasure after a storm! Heavy rains can also move targets, so recheck areas you have already searched.
38) Be a Courteous Detectorist
Regardless of where you metal detect, always remember to be courteous. While you are detecting you are representative of all metal detectorists. So, if you dig a hole, fill it back in properly. Some detectorists take along a frisbee (sounds weird, I know, but bear with me). It can be difficult to get all the dirt back in a hole, especially in someone’s grass!
Placing the dirt on the frisbee allows you to better backfill your holes. Do not trespass. Do not detect too near people recreating. Use headphones to minimize noise to other when detecting on populated beaches, parks, or other areas.
39) Use Proper Techniques
It is important to have good technique when sweeping with your metal detector. If you scan too quickly or have your search coil too far off the ground, you will not hear targets properly. Ground noise can be increased with this technique and mask targets. Always keep your search coil close to the ground, swing it side to side smoothly, and slightly overlap your sweeps.
40) Don’t Be Deterred
You may see other detectorists in an area or know areas where they have searched previously. Don’t be deterred by this! Especially in areas where recreation traffic is continuously high. This means the finds are replenished more often. Areas with moving water can change constantly, too, as the water moves targets around. It is also possible that the previous searchers missed items.
41) Consider Working Backwards
If you are searching an area that has, or likely has, been searched by other detectorists, start in the area you would normally search last. It is quite possible that the last searcher began where you would begin and searched that area thoroughly. So, if you work backward, starting with the last area of a site you would normally search, you come across a missed target!
42) Don’t Skip Targets
Jewelry often reads similarly to foil or pull tabs. For example, a gold ring comes through at a similar tone to an iron target. So, if you skip all targets that come across as iron or pull tabs, you might be missing something great! I tend to dig almost every target I come across. While I end up with more trash than treasure, I am more certain I haven’t missed anything in an area.
43) Keep Track of Your Finds
Keep a log of your finds. Detail what you found, where you found it, and when you found it. You can do this with a simple pen and paper, or keep it organized in a program like Microsoft Word or Excel. Sometimes patterns emerge when you’ve logged an area so you will know where the most likely targets will be.
45) Learn How to Properly Clean Your Finds
Cleaning your finds is one of the best parts of metal detecting for jewelry! There is nothing quite as satisfying as watching that shine come out on a gold ring! Be sure you know how to properly clean jewelry, as some of it may be quite old or quite delicate.
Gold is a delicate metal, and susceptible to scratching. Be sure you have the proper cleaning solutions for your jewelry. I recommend a simple solution of dish soap and water. Unless it is a metal that tarnishes easily, this should remove a lot of the gunk.
46) Consider returning found property
It is possible that when you find jewelry, it may be engraved or have other identifying marks from the original owner. Now, this item is legally yours. Finders keepers! Some chose to find the owners and return their property.
Not only will this give you a sense of pride, but it will help the original owner be reunited with their property. I am not saying you must do this, and certainly not judging you if you choose not to! I am simply saying there are ways to determine the original owners of certain jewelry items. If you chose this route, always be sure to obtain the proper proof that the owner is in fact the owner.
47) Have Realistic Expectations
Most detectorists don’t go on a hunt expecting to get rich. Although it is always a hope it is just not realistic. If you go into every metal detecting trip expecting to cash out at the end, you may be disappointed. Often, I come away with trash items and old iron items, rather than treasure. I choose to look at this as me helping to clean up the areas I hunt, and the iron items are neat little pieces of the area’s past.
48) Consider Joining a Detecting Club
Metal detecting clubs are all over the U.S. and are great places to speak with other detectorists and potentially learn something. Some detectorists in these clubs have been detecting for years and may have good tips for you.
49) Have Your Finds Checked
It can be difficult to know for sure what a piece of jewelry is made of. For cases where the jewelry is unmarked, or you are unsure what metals/stones are used, you can take them to a professional. Most jewelers will look over your finds (some may charge for this service) and let you know what they’re made of.
50) Always Be Safe
It is important to be safe while you are metal detecting. Be aware of your surroundings always. It can be easy to ignore the world around you when you are focused on your metal detecting. While you do need to focus, you need to be wary of what is around you. If you are in the woods, keep an eye out for wildlife.
If you are in an area with abandoned buildings, watch for wells and unstable structures. On the beach, watch for glass and keep an eye on the weather. I like to bring along a small first aid kit, just in case. Always tell someone where you will be going. I like to take bug spray with me during the summer and fall months.
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