Susan "Sue" Owen '94 March 15, 2017 12:31 PM updated: March 15, 2017 2:07 PM
“This is the closest I’ll ever feel to winning the lottery,” said Natalie Cervantes ’09, who learned late Tuesday (March 14) that a social media cooperative effort and some sharp-eyed sleuthing meant she will be getting back the Aggie Ring she lost two and a half years ago.
“I was almost crying, because those people didn’t even know me.”
The Aggie who purchased her Ring from a San Antonio pawn shop, Dr. Clifford Dorn ’81, may even get to hand it to her on Ring Day in April.
Cervantes said she’d given up all hope of seeing her Ring again. She didn’t know until after she was contacted by The Association of Former Students on Tuesday that the effort to get her Ring back had gone viral and even made the Bryan/College Station news in a KBTX report Tuesday night.
And the odds were extremely high that the search would be unfruitful – because Cervantes’ name had been almost entirely removed from inside her Ring.
A San Antonio native who works as a county extension agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, she had set the Ring down in a bathroom at work one day.
“I have a bad habit that I don’t do anymore since this happened, but when I washed my hands, I took off my jewelry,” she said. Realizing later that she didn’t have her Aggie Ring, she returned to look for it, checked daily with the office to see if it had been turned in, and eventually lost hope.
“I thought it was probably long gone and destroyed,” she said.
“At the time, I wasn’t really in the position to replace it. It was a gift from my parents for graduating,” she said. “It’s a very sentimental thing.”
Last week, a San Antonio police detective, Angelica Leal ’97, saw the Ring in a pawn shop. Leal said, "Oh, my heart was broken" when she recognized it as an Aggie Ring. She took a photo that she shared with fellow SAPD officers, including Sgt. Tina Baron ’97. Baron’s cousin Clinton Haby ’02 posted it Friday on the Facebook page for the San Antonio A&M Club’s Young Aggies group.
It was shared thousands of times, and Dorn decided to buy the Ring to get it off the market and try to find its owner.
That is, if someone could purchase the Ring in San Antonio and get it to him in College Station.
UTSA alumna Avery Crenshaw volunteered to get the Ring, and an Aggie, Natalie Martinez ’13, offered to take it up to College Station. Both were strangers to Dorn. He sent Crenshaw $400 via Paypal, Martinez brought the Ring to him, and on Monday he took it to The Association of Former Students.
There, the Ring Office staff began narrowing down the list of possible owners. Association records showed 119 “lost Ring” reports for women’s Rings from the Class of 2009, and that out of over 4,400 women’s 2009 Aggie Rings ever manufactured, only about 200 matched this Ring’s size, finish and year.
But Ring program manager Julie Scamardo, with 19 years’ experience reading the engraving in Aggie Rings, saw something nobody else had seen.
The interior of the Ring appeared to have been ground flat and featureless. Scamardo tilted the Ring and inspected it with a jeweler’s loupe, and made out the shadow of several letters.
Others confirmed her find, Ring program senior associate Katherine Scarmardo ’09 cross-referenced the new information with their list, and Natalie Cervantes’ name was the only one that matched.
Cervantes said, “I was just flabbergasted, because I saw a picture of the Ring, and the engraving was obliterated.”
Julie Scamardo agreed that the odds are against being able to identify such Rings. "It’s almost impossible," she said. "Most names get completely removed, and you cannot identify the owner. But there is always that slim chance that there may be some hidden clue in the sea of scratches."
After the Ring Office contacted Cervantes, she went on Facebook and saw the scope of the effort that had taken place. “That people would go so far out of their way,” she said. “The orchestration of this, the whole search… I can’t even fathom any other place this would happen.”
Now that her ownership of the Ring has been confirmed, Balfour will re-engrave it with her name. And Dorn, who regularly volunteers at The Association handing out Rings on Aggie Ring Day, hopes to present it to her himself.
Cervantes is working to try to come in Friday, April 7, for Ring Day so that can happen. “I’d really like to meet him and thank him in person if at all possible,” she said.
“He had absolutely no reason to do that other than, ‘I’m an Aggie, you’re an Aggie, and I know what this means to you.’”
Cervantes, who works with 4-H youth, said, “I’m going to tell all my kids, ‘Look, you can go to any college, but this is the only one where they have your back when you need it most.’”
Lost and Found Aggie Rings
If you have lost or found an Aggie Ring, please report it here: AggieNetwork.com/ring/lostandfound.aspx
Make sure your contact information is up to date at AggieNetwork.com/profile, because when a Ring is found, the Find An Aggie directory is the first place many people turn to search for the owner.
Is your Ring fitting loosely, or sitting in a drawer because it's too tight? Don’t lose it -- get it resized! Resizing is free in many cases, and even completely remaking a damaged Ring normally costs between $44 and $87. Learn more here: AggieNetwork.com/ring/warranty-and-service.
An Aggie Ring turning up for sale doesn’t necessarily mean something illegitimate has taken place. The original owner or an heir can legally sell it or pawn it; it can pass on through an estate sale; and so on. If it was genuinely lost, not stolen (and proving intent can be difficult), the finder can sell it.
But if you see an Aggie Ring at a shop or online sales site, you can notify The Association, which will try to identify the original owner. (Reach the Ring Office at AggieRing@AggieNetwork.com or 979-845-1050.)
The Association encourages Aggie Ring owners to insure against loss. Some policies may cover the cost of replacement, and The Association can provide proof of purchase and replacement value for most Rings from the 1960s onwards.
If yours has been stolen, be sure your police report includes the name engraved on it.
Below: Though the 2009 Ring was listed at $499.99, the pawn shop owner agreed to sell it for less when Dorn explained that his purpose was finding the owner.