Published: 12:30, 18 July 2014
A grandmother who thought her engagement ring was lost for good has found it – 38 years later.
The unexpected discovery of the diamond ring is a remarkable story of sheer luck, the power of the internet and touching honesty.
Jackie Cook's ring disappeared after her inquisitive daughter Clare, then aged three, rummaged through her mum's jewellery and fished out a sparkler that caught her eye.
The tot decided to bury the ring in the garden at the family home on a farm in Halling where father Benjamin was gamekeeper at the time.
It was not until the next day that Mrs Cook, now 66, noticed the ring her husband-to-be saved more than a month's wages to buy had gone missing.
"I knew there must be a story behind the ring and that it must have been special to someone..." - Toni Crouch
The couple turned the place upside down. They even hired a metal detector to scour the grounds at Ladds Farm, Halling, but their search was in vain.
Mrs Cook, who works in Morrisons, Strood, said: "I just gave up all hope. It was of enormous emotional value to me and for years I did not replace it.
"Benjamin and I had chosen the ring together two years before we got married."
And when she was doing some clearing up at their home in High Street, Halling, she stumbled across some old photographs, including one of Ladds Farm.
She decided to post them on the Old Photographs of Halling website.
Just hours later, young mother Toni Crouch recognised the picture of Ladds Farm, which had also been her childhood home.
Mrs Crouch, 29, immediately messaged Mrs Cook and in the conversation that followed, she mentioned that when she was a child she came across a gold ring in the back garden.
She had kept the ring for all those years – and sent a picture of it to a stunned Mrs Cook who confirmed it was indeed her missing engagement ring.
Mrs Cook said: "I just filled up and cried and cried.
"I know it's hard to believe, but I had dreamt about the ring the week before and have to say I believe in fate."
As her husband of 44 years slipped the ring back on to her finger, Mrs Cook said: "Apart from when my grandchildren were born, this is the happiest day of my life.
"And the ring still fits. There's a stone missing, but we don't care how much it costs to replace it. Finding my ring is priceless."
Mrs Crouch, who now lives in Bassett Road, Sittingbourne, was equally elated.
She said: "It's so wonderful to make somebody so happy."
As Mr and Mrs Cook presented with her a bouquet and bracelet to say thank you, she said: "We shall certainly be in touch. We shall be friends for life."
Mum-of-two Mrs Crouch said that when she found the ring, she showed it to her mother who placed it on the kitchen windowsill where it gathered dust for ages.
She later decided to hold on to it and kept it in her own jewellery box.
"There have been times when I have been broke and could have sold it for a tenner," she said. "But I knew there must be a story behind the ring and that it must have been special to someone."
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