Madonna King's wedding and engagement ring

How to Search for a Lost Diamond on a Long-haul Flight with 400 Other Passengers

I keep forgetting exactly how long I’ve had it, but it’s been as long as I’ve been married; a small diamond that sits atop my wedding ring.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. An engagement and wedding ring all rolled into one. In the middle, there’s a pink sapphire I drew before it was made into a real one.

And alongside it sits two small diamonds.

Not a day’s gone by in almost two decades that I’ve removed it. Ocean swims, boxing sessions, the birth of babies, and even squabbles with the person who had it made and delivered, all those years ago.

And then, in mid-December, late at night aboard the Emirates-operated QF 8431 from Brisbane to Dubai, something happened.

If you’ve taken that flight, you know it’s always loud and jam-packed and joyous – this time with the holiday hope of a white Christmas filling the cabin as quickly as overhead luggage and the pleas to take seats quickly.

We took our seats in the last row – 49 D, E, F and G.

The hours passed faster for some than others.

The guy in front was asleep, holding his first beer. So was my partner, the ring-giver. The teenagers next to me swapped conversation with a marathon of movies at a speed I’ve rarely seen them reach.

Meals came and disappeared. So did bottles of water. And snacks.

Polite air stewards, whose ability to smile no matter what, patiently answered calls, and delivered more drinks to the crowd a few seats forward.

And then, washing my hands, I noticed it was gone. A hole where the diamond sat. A big gaping hole.

It sounds so petty, and perhaps it is, but it was a bit like I’d lost a young child in a shopping centre.

It had to be somewhere. On the flight, with 400-odd others.

I searched seat 49 D, before taking the torch my partner always packs (yes, don’t even ask), and set about combing the nearest aisle, and then the next one.

A needle in a haystack? Try a small diamond on an international flight. Those not asleep asked what I was doing, and joined in.

People stood up, searching where they sat, in some false hope it had taken a flight of its own across seats and aisles and buried itself under someone else.

Eventually, I gave up, and on landing uploaded details to Dubai Airport’s Lost and Found team. The wi-fi was as dodgy as it is sometimes at home, and I hoped it reached them before boarding another flight, and giving up hope.

Across Europe, locals everywhere asked about Australia and the fires that were filling our skies and breaking our hearts. In Munich. And Vienna. And Prague.

It’s hard to put too much heart into a lost diamond, when lives are being lost and whole futures are irrevocably changing as one year ends and another begins.

And so, back home, with a dose of reality, I started reading the pages required for a travel insurance claim.

Having only done an insurance claim once before, I can tell you it hasn’t changed. Pages and pages and pages. Small print and big print. Questions and questions and more questions. And one of them required the email I sent to Dubai Airport’s Lost and Found unit.

It was then I realised I had never received a confirmation, and my original correspondence probably never read.

So, almost four weeks later, I sent them a second email, outlining the flight and the tale around one tiny diamond.

They requested a photo, and 24 hours later responded with this. “After checking the flight records we are glad to inform you that this item is in the custody of the Emirates Lost and Found Department.’’

Perhaps it was St Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost items. Or the wonderful souls who clean after those chasing their holiday dreams leave the aircraft. Or plain good luck. No one can tell me.

But in the daily barrage of bad news, it’s been this tiny little stone that has provided a rock-sized silver lining for me, and smiles for so many others who hear it.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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