One month after jeweler Mark Loren dropped three messages in a bottle from a helicopter into the Gulf of Mexico, a local fisherman has claimed the first prize.

Wesley Skinner, 22, a commercial fisherman and senior at Florida Gulf Coast University, spotted the light green glass bottle floating at sea, about 30 miles offshore northwest of Sanibel Island. The water was extremely calm that day, Skinner recalled, and after seeing an object bobbing in the water, asked the captain turn around so he could take a closer look. He didn’t immediately uncork the bottle, though, electing to stow it in a hatch and continue toward their fishing destination. Engine problems, however, meant a 12-hour trek back to shore, so Skinner opened the bottle.

“I thought it was real, but didn’t know the extent of the prize,” Skinner said. “It just said ‘Come claim your diamond.’”

Mark Loren, owner and founder of Mark Loren Designs, dropped three bottles into the Gulf on Monday, Feb. 12 as part of a Valentine’s Day promotion. One contained a certificate for a diamond valued at $10,000, while the other two had certificates for $2,500 in merchandise and services at the Fort Myers gallery.

“I dropped them from a helicopter a few hundred yards from the shore, and factoring in the tides and wave action, we estimated the bottles could wash ashore within 24 to 48 hours,” said Loren. “It’s amazing to think that Wes found the bottle 30 miles from where I dropped it.”

On Friday, March 16, Skinner visited Mark Loren Designs’ gallery at 13351 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers to claim his diamond, a 1.9-carat round brilliant very fine quality gem with a retail value over $10,000.

“I was shocked,” said Skinner, who has no immediate plans for the diamond. “That’s a lot more money than I have in the bank right now. I couldn’t be happier.”

Of course, Skinner’s discovery means two unclaimed Mark Loren Designs bottles are still floating at sea, or perhaps have washed ashore on an isolated beach or become lodged under some mangroves. Just this week, news media reported that a message in a bottle from New Zealand ended up in Spain… eight years later. And earlier this month, officials confirmed the world’s oldest message in a bottle – dated June 12, 1886 – was discovered buried in sand on the west coast of Australia.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for these other two bottles to be found,” Loren joked.

About Mark Loren Designs

Mark Loren Designs is nationally known for offering unique and rare gemstones, innovative diamond rings, exceptional engagement and wedding bands and expert jewelry design and repair. All services are done on-site at the Fort Myers gallery, located at 13351 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers. From celebrities to clients who appreciate wearing exclusive jewelry designs, Mark Loren Designs assures the finest one-of-a-kind sentimental jewelry pieces for lasting enjoyment. For more information, visit www.marklorendesigns.com.