Woman finds her stolen ring on eBay

March 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A family heirloom was lost to a thief and thanks to perseverance and the Internet it was ultimately brought it back to its rightful owner.

This is a love story -- not unrequited, but unresolved. For Darva Campbell, it began in the Great Depression with her grandparents, Sherman and Georgia Milligan, who fled the Dust Bowl to California with good intentions and little more.

"They had zero money. They hocked their mule and had $25 to climb on the back of a pick-up truck with 13 other itinerant workers and come to California," said Darva.

They were so poor that it took Sherman two years to save just enough money for a diamond wedding ring that was so small, you cannot even see it on Georgia's hand in an old picture, but it would become the family's most precious heirloom.

"To me, it sort of connected the women in our family back to that time," said Darva.

So imagine Darva's delight when, while still a teenager, her mother passed the ring down to her.

"My mom said that she wasn't sure if I was old enough or responsible enough not to lose it," said Darva.

And maybe her mom knew something, because when Darva went to Oregon to study music, a thief broke into her apartment and took the ring.

When asked if Darva told her mother, she said "No."

Darva kept that secret through three decades of family gatherings. The guilt drove through pawn shops and jewelry sales. On eBay, she typed the words "old diamond ring" more times than she can remember.

As the years passed, Darva kept searching. She bought more rings than one can count, but every time they arrived, they would never quite be the one ? so she would buy more.

Then one day, Darva came across a fuzzy image on her screen, but she had a feeling.

"It's engrained in me what it looks like," said Darva.

Darva bid five times the value -- $500 -- and waited.

"I knew immediately, as soon as I put it on my finger," said Darva. "So happy to have it."

Out of curiosity she contacted the seller; he said that the ring had belonged to his wife and that she had gone. No further explanation.

When asked how that ring went from Oregon to the Midwest, she replied "I would love to know. It's like the lost history of my ring."

And it is a bigger story of perseverance, and family mystery, a circle closed, and now maybe Darva can share the story with her mother.

When asked if the burden was lifted, she replied, "Yeah, oh, yeah. Definitely."