Sydney woman's 100-year-old engagement ring found in river after 18 months

Joanna Vink had almost given up hope that the antique ring would be found, likening the moment to being reunited with a long-lost friend.

A grateful Sydney couple almost broke down in tears when a scuba diver miraculously found their century-old engagement ring after it was lost for over 18 months in the murky waters of Parramatta River.

Joanna Vink was enjoying time on her family boat back in September, 2021 when she decided to reapply sun lotion and momentarily held her engagement ring with pursed lips — something she has done "a million times" — but it slipped out.

The ring fell to the floor before it "bounced at an angle" and sprung up into the air.

Michael and Joanna Vink smiling at the camera before the engagement ring was lost.
Michael and Joanna Vink have had the engagement ring for 40 years and were "disbelieving" after it fell into Parramatta River. Source: Supplied

"[The ring travelled] a good half a metre and then with a 'plop' it fell into the water," Joanna told Yahoo News Australia, saying she was completely "dumbfounded" by the "freak" turn of events at Five Dock Bay.

After quickly snapping pictures of their boat's location and sadly informing her husband, the pair reached out to professionals in hope they could retrieve their antique ring.

Unsuccessful attempts to locate the engagement ring

The couple arranged three professional search missions and despite "hours and hours and hours" of searching each time, the Vinks' "hopes were dashed". Even one desperate attempt by Michael to find the ring using a pool scoop on their dingy still left the couple empty-handed.

"It's like losing the ring all over again anytime someone tries to look for it," Joanna shared.

Eighteen months had gone by since losing the ring when a man they had "never heard of before" reached out to them, hearing their story through a mutual contact.

A metal-detecting scuba diver joins the search

Nick Richards, a metal detecting scuba diver, has enjoyed retrieving hidden treasures for 25 years and hoped he could put his hobby to good use for the Vinks' cause, but Michael and Joanna didn't hold out much hope.

Accompanied by his friend Stuart Allan, the pair set out last Sunday on a six-hour search for the ring, reaching the depths of five metres in water described to have "very little visibility".

“I think anyone that gets an invitation to dive in the Parramatta River is best to have an excuse ready. It's not pleasant by any stretch," Nick joked to Yahoo News, before adding. "I think it's a sense of adventure that makes me want to do it".

After hearing the "right" sound from his metal detector and feeling around the soft silk in the very last grid he was searching in, Nick finally made contact with his target and said the feeling was "indescribably good".

On the left Nick Richards can be seen in a wet suit holding the engagement ring, and a close up of the ring can be seen to the right.
Nick Richards has retrieved over 400 pieces of jewellery and explained the personal challenge of each search drives him towards the next. Source: Supplied

Reunited at long last: 'It was wonderful'

Attending a function in another area of Sydney, Joanna explained that her husband "held out his phone with this funny look on his face", looking as though he was going to cry.

On the phone screen was simply one picture — their engagement ring in Nick's hand.

She told Yahoo News the moment was truly "wonderful", feeling an intense sense of gratitude towards Nick for his extensive efforts.

With the couple now reunited with the ring and having it securely placed back on Joanna's finger, she likened the experience to being reunited with a long-lost friend. Relieved of the sadness she felt for over a year, she's happy to heading back to enjoying time on the boat guilt-free.

"I wasn't surprised to have it back. I was surprised not to have had it in the first place," she said.

“I wasn't even aware for 18 months I had been going down to the boat and sort of quashing down this lonely sense of sadness," she continued.

"I'm so delighted to have it back".

Michael and Joanna Vink sitting at the top table at their wedding reception in 1984.
Michael and Joanna Vink on their wedding day in 1984. Source: Supplied

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