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Life is a treasure hunt for Inverness resident

(ran CI edition)

Byrl King's attraction for gems started when he was just 21, when his father gave him an extraordinary diamond ring boasting three diamonds.

Now 84, King is still entranced with the precious metals, rocks and minerals lying underneath the ground. In fact, he has spent much of his free time gathering treasures from places such as Brazil, Australia, California and Virginia.

King has snorkeled for pearls in Japan, dug for opals in Australia, descended into the mouth of an extinct volcano via helicopter in Utah just to chip away one extremely small piece of red beryl, and panned for gold in North Carolina.

"I really enjoy doing this because it is so fascinating when I see what God put under the Earth, it is fantastic! It gives you such a wonderful feeling, for example, to be in the streams in the mountains panning for gold. There is really nothing like it; it makes you feel contented and fully satisfied," he said.

During some of his free time, King travels throughout the county giving free lectures to parents and their children about the treasures he has found and how they can find them too. "I enjoy this so much because if I can just get one or two people interested it will be worthwhile. I get a lot of enjoyment out of that," he said.

King said a job he held for 30 years helped spark his love of precious metals, rocks and minerals. For the biggest part of his career, King was a navigator for Pan Am Airlines. He flew to places such as Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica and Australia. It was on some of these trips he had the opportunity to dig, pan or snorkel for rarities.

With his finds, he has created everything from a solid gold brooch to small copper trees with amethyst leaves to clear candles decorated with bits of copper.

He has amethyst and topaz from Brazil, emeralds from Colombia, copper from Michigan, jade and malachite from India, gold from North Carolina and Virginia and geodes (ball-like rocks containing deposits of calcite) from the Withlacoochee River.

"Out of all the things I have gone searching for," King said, "there is nothing though more fun than looking for gold." In fact, he says he'd like to go back to Cripple Creek, Calif., again to look for gold. "My hopes are one day that I will find a gold piece that will be worth about $10,000!"

How long does King plan to continue treasure hunting?

"I want to have some more of God's handiwork, so I will keep doing this until I can't do it anymore," he said.