Florida kicked off its 2013 Python Challenge earlier this year hoping to increase awareness of an invasive species lurking in the Everglades.

Snake hunters Joseph Post, Gregg Jobes, and Mark Rubinstein were eager to join the hunt, which ended in February with a modest haul of 68 Burmese pythons. None of those belonged to the three friends. However, the hunters did not come back home entirely empty-handed, in fact they had managed to get their hands on something possibly very old and very valuable. During the hunt Rubinstein recovered a jeweled gold medallion set with diamonds and sapphires in the shape of a cross. One edge of the disk appears to have melted, but otherwise the item remains in good condition and will certainly fetch a high price at sale. Rubinstein, however, would rather return it to its original owners, or their descendants.

“I would like (strongly) to get it back to the rightful heirs,” he said. “It would be some really good karma for all involved, or to put it simply, the right thing to do.”

First, he would need to find out more about it. So the next step was to take the cross to the experts. Rubinstein visited Carroll’s Jewelers of Ft. Lauderdale, where the owners revealed more about the piece of jewelry. It seemed to be constructed from high quality gold and contained eight rose-cut diamonds along with the thirteen sapphires that made up the cross shape. Some of these gems had fallen off or were located in the melted section. The item’s circular shape suggested that it might have been once worn on the neck with an accompanying chain. Photos were taken and posted to the online jeweler’s forum the Ganoksin Project. According to a press release, it was then that Walker Metalsmiths in Andover, New York noticed peculiarities about the cross.

Assisting Rubinstein in exploring the history behind the cross, Walker Metalsmiths experts explained that the style contained Celtic elements but also resembled Byzantine designs. It is possible that the cross was of modern manufacture but crafted for an antique look. In either case, it is suspected that the piece of jewelry landed in the area where Rubinstein found it after a plane crash in 1972. The site of a 1996 plane crash was also near the area where the cross was found.

Finally, Rubinstein received the first clue behind the medallion’s original owners. Currently the hunter is cooperating with the Archdiocese of Miami to narrow down the list of passenger names. If descendants are found the medallion will be turned over to them, hopefully providing a link to a loved one who perished in a tragic event. Otherwise, it is very possible that the medallion may be donated to a museum if it proves to have historical value.

Image courtesy Walker Metalsmiths

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