Liz Rickert had almost given up hope.

It was the morning of Oct. 22, three days since she had noticed her wedding ring missing from her hand.

The ring, inscribed "Elizabeth and Jason," had a white gold band with three square gemstones, a diamond nestled between two smaller ones on either side. Her husband ordered the ring from a jeweler in Israel.

"I never thought I would actually lose this ring," Rickert recalled last week. "I just couldn't believe it."

Yet through circumstances, timing and a little bit of luck, the ring would not remain lost, thanks to a stranger from miles away who decided to do the right thing.

Rickert, of Welch Township, south of Hastings, noticed her ring missing shortly after arriving home from a Miesville playground with her 2-year-old daughter Annika.

"I couldn't look my husband in the eyes. I was almost embarrassed that I could be so careless with something that special," the mother of two said.

Rickert returned to the playground the next day and scoured her home, her car, her purse, and her 10-month-old's diaper bag. The following day, hoping someone had found it, she posted signs at the park, a church and a restaurant. Still no word. On the third day, she put in a report with the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.

"I didn't think it would really bring my ring back, but I thought I should do it just in case," Rickert said.

About 50 miles away, on the day Rickert was searching the park and her home, an Orono mother of 11 was at the Shane Co. jewelry store in Minnetonka to determine if a ring her daughter had found was real.

Jill Leukuma had taken four of her kids for a hike at a state park near Red Wing on Oct. 19. They stopped at a playground in Miesville on their way home and, shortly after they saw a woman with children leaving the park, 11-year-old Leanna showed her mother a ring she'd picked up.

"When she brought it to me, the ring hadn't been polished for a while. It was dull in color. I didn't think anything of it until I saw the inscription in it and thought 'Wow, this could be real,'" Leukuma said.

At the jewelry store, Leukuma was told that not only were the diamonds real, but a similar style ring at the store was valued at $12,000.

That's when Leukuma made it her mission to reunite the ring with its owner.

"I was kind of obsessed to get it back to the owner because I knew they were probably devastated," she said.

Leukuma spent the next two days checking online newspaper ads and Craigslist. She called to the city of Miesville and the Hastings police. And just a couple of hours after Rickert had first reported her ring lost, the sheriff's office took Leukuma's call saying it had been found. She got Rickert's phone number and called her up.

"I just started crying immediately on the phone with her," Rickert said.

Dave Bellows, chief deputy sheriff, said it's not often that items of value are returned to their owners so quickly. A lot of people who find money or things of value don't necessarily report it to the police, he said.

"It kind of reaffirms our faith in human nature. We tend to get a little jaded in this profession. You see someone doing that for someone else, it just makes this job all worthwhile," he said. "It exemplifies Minnesota Nice."

Jeannine Aquino • 952-882-9056