Donated mystery ring to bring joy to new recipient

Associated Press
Published February 15, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE - Salvation Army officials have concluded that a diamond engagement ring dropped in a red kettle during the Christmas season was a gift from an anonymous donor, not a mistake, they said Monday.

Despite a publicized monthlong search for the owner, no one has claimed the ring.

It may still find its way to a happy fiancee: A jeweler that stepped forward to buy the ring from the charity will give it away this afternoon.

"Whoever put the ring in the kettle wanted the Salvation Army to have it, and we consider the ring a donation," said Broward County Salvation Army Capt. Steve Morris.

The 1/3-carat diamond set in 14-karat gold was found the week before Christmas when it got stuck in a sorting machine counting coins dropped into red kettles set up outside storefronts and other locations in the county, Morris said.

A jeweler estimated the ring was worth up to $400.

Since the Salvation Army announced the search for the owner a month ago, more than 200 people called with tales about lost rings, Morris said. But none described a ring with the same diagonal lines etched into a gold band.

Fountains Jewelers in Plantation offered the Salvation Army $300 for the ring. The store's owner heard about it on the news, salesman Erik Langleiben said.

"He decided the right thing to do was to purchase the ring and help out the Salvation Army," Langleiben said.

The store plans to hold a raffle today to give the ring to someone who wants to propose but can't afford an engagement ring, Langleiben said.

"For a needy person, for someone down on his luck ... there has to be somewhere out there a man who wants to propose," Langleiben said.

Unusual items, such as rare gold or silver coins, often find their way into Salvation Army kettles. This holiday season, Broward County workers also found a set of car keys mistakenly dropped into a basket, Morris said.

The money from Fountains Jewelers will pay for educational materials for a new after-school tutoring program, Morris said.