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Gold pendant found by python hunter story goes viral


#1

On March 6, 2013, Orchadian Don Dietz posted an article on this
forum subject “An Unusual Find”. The story he told has now been
picked up by several major news organizations and has been shared
over a thousand times on Facebook.

Very exciting that an “Indiana Jones” sort of story about snakes,
plane crashes and lost treasure would break on Orchid.

The gist of it was that three friends, who were participating in the
2013 Python Challenge snake hunt in the Everglades, found a small
gold cross medallion set with rose cut diamonds and sapphires.
Partially melted, it turns out the find spot was in an area that has
seen two major airplane crashes. One finder, Mark Rubinstein, is
searching for an heir to the owner. I kept in touch with Mark for the
past several months trying to help him get the story into the news.
But we are both busy guys, so it took a little time to get any
traction. Last week it all came together and the story went viral and
was picked up by a number of news outlets. Fox News interviewed both
of us on Friday. NBC called Saturday.


http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep80aq
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep80ar

It has been a very weird thing to be a part of. But very exciting
and dramatic. The response has been unpredictable also. The jewelry
and art guys seem to be most interested in what it is culturally. I
became involved as the Celtic jewelry “expert” but I think it is
probably Eastern Orthodox in its origin. The comments to the UK Daily
Mail article were mostly worried about the snakes. The general public
is more interested in the horror story of the crashes and hope for
success in identifying the owner. The good news is that we have
picked up the trail, although there are certain difficulties in
verifying the leads. Too soon to get specific about that.

Stephen Walker


Andover, NY


#2

I was interested in the story when it first appeared here on
Ganoksin about the partially melted pendant. And now on second look
at it I am pretty darn sure that between the cross arms (greek cross
of equal arms) are the greek letters OMEGA, PHI and UPSILON. That
could mean that the pin is from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Upsilon
Psi Chapter of Talahassee Florida. Psi would have been a letter a
little like a trident and it might have been in the space that is
totally melted. Or even some other fraternity or sorority with the
same letters as a name. It’s just a thought - but worth perhaps
checking out in a fraternity/sorority listing.

I hope this isn’t a mystery forever - it is certainly a memento of
something for someone.

Barbara on a cool spring night on the island


#3

This evening an alert Facebook correspondent sent me the attached
photo.

The pendant is very similar to the one found in Florida. Much easier
to read since it was not damaged and is larger. It was purchased it
from an antique dealer in Los Angeles 40 years ago. He was told it
was probably Greek or Russian. My early opinion, without having
consulted any experts, is that the letters are Old Church Slavonic.

Stephen Walker


#4
http://www.ganoksin.com/ftp/IMG_0191_3.jpg 

The new pendant’s picture is a fine example f the power of the
internet.

The mystery deepens.


#5

Since I responded with my guess of the stylized greek letters last
March, I have been hoping to know more about this weird & wonderful
story. Thanks for posting the photo of the ruby and diamond cross
from Facebook, Stephen. Are there any hallmarks on this larger
pendant? I would like to know who the maker is. Keep up the good
work, and please continue to post updates to this story on Orchid.

Michelle Bernard


#6
Thanks for posting the photo of the ruby and diamond cross from
Facebook, Stephen. Are there any hallmarks on this larger pendant? 

Hi Michelle, No hallmarks on either piece that can be determined
from the photos or reported by people who have examined them. The
thing will be getting a big boost on Monday when the Associated Press
is coming out with a story. Just remember, you heard it first on
Orchid.

As much of a challenge as it is to try to solve this mystery by
research, it is a whole lot more likely that someone who already
knows the answer will see it and just tell us. At least that is what
I am hoping for. The AP reporter on the story, Jennifer Kay, covered
the Python Challenge and also did a story on the survivors of the
1972 Eastern Airlines crash. 75 passengers survived, but 110 were
killed. She spent a lot more time talking to me than the other
reporters who have called and she is meeting with the man who found
it, Mark Rubinstein, today.

If the story isn’t already weird enough, there are ghost stories
about the Eastern crash and a murder suspect died on the ValuJet
flight.

Steve Walker


#7

The paranormal experiences that I have read concerning the Eastern
Airlines crash make me believe that finding the owner or the family
of whoever owned the pendant is all the more necessary. Please keep
us posted. Jewelry is such a personal item and what might be
connected with this pendant could be more immense than the story so
far. You are on a mission of destiny.

Namaste
Barbara


#8

Some better photos attached.



20.4 mm (0.803 inch) diameter
1.2 mm thick
4.26 grams
Tested with GXL-24 at 20K to 22K

This instrument is not especially accurate at higher karats but it
does not usually give a false high reading, so it could well be 22K

The darker discolored areas, on the back view on the left, look to
me like contamination with another metal when it was semi-molten. I
am thinking aluminum.

Another observation, the bezels are a white metal that didn’t melt
quite as quickly, as you can see by the bezel nearest in the angle-on
shot.

Platinum, I would presume.

I have an appointment with the Material Science Lab at Alfred
University tomorrow morning. We should know what it is made of down
to some pretty small minor trace elements after they do their magic.

Stephen Walker


#9

Hi Stephen,

Interesting. I note a few things:

(A) old rose cut stones, but the interesting thing is that they’re
not heat shattered. I say interesting because whatever heated the
thing, did it fast, and then it cooled quick(ish). Yet the stones
aren’t shattered. Most puzzling.

(B) hand pierced. This wasn’t a mass produced piece. Somebody sawed
it out of a 1.2mm slab. Dimensionalized it with engravers, and
little enough of that, so despite the materials, it wasn’t super
high-end. Get some 45 degree shots of the insides of the pierced
areas with raking light, and I bet you can see some pretty coarse
saw scoring.

This tells me late 1800s, very early 1900s. Guessing eastern Europe,
1880-1914. (And I’m guessing.)

Don’t know what any of that may mean, but more data can’t hurt.

My bet’s still on the ValuJet crash. Let us know how it all turns
out.

Regards,
Brian


#10

Well what ever it was, it surely wasn’t a good luck charm for the
wearer.

Sorry folks. I’m gonna do some serious time in purgatory for that
one.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#11

Ah, Stephen, beautiful photos, thanks!

This is similar to the pieces I make, which is why I’m so
interested.

Now I can see that you have a mix of rose cut, and Old Mine Cut
diamonds; the first stones cut with a table, came after the rose
cut, and are varieties of OMC stones. I still think this is a Greek
piece, not Celtic. Traditional Greek colors are blue (sapphires),
and white (diamonds). The thirteen stones in the cross, usually
symbolize Christ (in the center) and his 12 Disciples. The letters
between the arms of the cross are Greek, stylized to fit the roughly
triangular space they are soldered into.

Perhaps in addition to the material science lab, you might consider
approaching John Benjamin, a specialist in Renaissance, 18th, and
19th century jewelry in London, or his counterpart at Sotheby’s,
with the press clippings and the story. They might be willing to
provide help as a professional courtesy, for the good Karma and
publicity they would receive for aiding in the return to the heirs,
of this bizarrely found piece. Costs almost nothing to ask.

Good luck to all involved in this unique quest, and please continue
to keep us posted.

Michelle Bernard


#12

Hi Stephen, I just saw your new pictures and I would say that your
assessment is correct. John & I were heavily involved with jewelry
itemsthat came from the Firestorm of 1991 in the Oakland & Berkeley
hills. We saw a lot of cross contamination on gold and it was just
like yours. My aunt’s pieces survived-somewhat and it was very
interesting to see other metals splashed across her medals. My
uncle’s diamond ring

wasn’t so lucky–everything became another type of blob. And no, his
included diamond vaporized. As for the bezel on your piece
material-platinum- appears to be the metal with high carat gold for
the cross.

Hopefully, the material Science Lab will verify all contents. Keep
us(Orchid) posted.


#13

Gerry Wynick at the Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy lab at Alfred
University spent almost two hours on the pendant. Fortunately I had
two of my sons along, who are both engineering students, and could
keep up with some of the more technical things he told us. Here is
the gist of it:

On the front of the melted bit, reading the elements on the
uncleaned surface Au 79.85% Ag 14.63% Cu 5.52% = 19K

On the rim, Au 95.60% Ag 2.61% Cu 1.79% = 23K

On the back rim, where we had cleaned it with a pencil eraser, Au
84.11% Ag 9.14&% Cu 6.65% = 20K

On the back, eraser clean at the inside end of the cross arm, Au
86.21% Ag 8.42% Cu 5.37% = 20.7K

There are lots of reasons that the surface composition would vary so
much.

Surface depletion and contamination while semi-molten are the
easiest to understand. The first test on the melted bit has a much
higher concentration of silver, which seems to me an indication that
either the piece was worn on a silver chain, some of which melted
into the pendant, or a lower karat gold chain that was alloyed with
more silver that melted into the pendant.

The bezels around the diamonds are platinum. Gerry asked if I wanted
him to fuss with it enough to get alloy composition. I cannot explain
exactly why he said that was going to take a lot longer, but we
decided to just accept that they were a fairly high percentage of
platinum. This, I think, dates the piece to more like 1880 to 1930,
but not for sure. Any ideas?

The darker parts on the back of the melted edges show the metal had
absorbed chromium, iron and titanium as well as some other elements.

The AP reporter, Jennifer Kay, has been pursuing some more
investigation.

I believe she really wants to write a tear-jerker ending to this
story. I hope it is soon. I need to get back to my real job.

Stephen Walker


#14
(B) hand pierced. This wasn't a mass produced piece. Somebody
sawed it out of a 1.2mm slab. Dimensionalized it with engravers,
and little enough of that, so despite the materials, it wasn't
super high-end. Get some 45 degree shots of the insides of the
pierced areas with raking light, and I bet you can see some pretty
coarse saw scoring. 

Surprisingly not. I don’t know if the marks were burnished out or
maybe the piercing was done with chisels. Nothing that looks like saw
marks as we would normally expect. But it is definitely hand made.

This tells me late 1800s, very early 1900s. Guessing eastern
Europe, 1880-1914. (And I'm *guessing*.) 

That is exactly the time frame I am guessing. The bezels are
platinum, so not very likely to be older, but not impossible.

My bet's still on the ValuJet crash. Let us know how it all turns
out. 

There was a small fire with the Eastern crash, but people were not
incinerated. I also think if we ever know for sure that the ValuJet
is most likely.

Stephen Walker


#15

Thank you for sharing the improved photos of this mysterious
pendant, Steve.

Have you had the opportunity to show it to a Russian or Greek
Orthodox scholar? The letters seem to be Greek or Church Slavonic,
altho I’m no expert. I seem to recall Mark having said that if no
owner or heir came forward to claim it, he’d donate the piece to the
Archdiocese of Miami, was that correct? Since it’s more likely an
Orthodox piece, I hope he will consider the donation be to that
particular diocese.

Linda in central FL


#16
Have you had the opportunity to show it to a Russian or Greek
Orthodox scholar? The letters seem to be Greek or Church Slavonic,
although I'm no expert. 

It turns out that the language is French. The letters O & I
superimposed in the same space (not phi as we all assumed). The
letters spell “EN MOI” = “In Me” The cross in French is Croix,
pronounced the same as Croi, which means “believe” The message is a
symbolic play on words “Crois en moi” believe in me.

We learned this from a man of Cuban heritage who has a family
heirloom very similar to the Everglades mystery cross. He saw the
story of Mark Rubinstein’s find and sent a picture of his pendant
along with an explanation of how this piece has been handed down
through his family on the occasion of betrothal. He writes “-- that
is, believe in God and believe in love (or more specifically, believe
in your future betrothed).” This gentleman saw the story in the Miami
Herald and responded to the reporter, who kindly forwarded it to me.
I expect she will have the story in the Sunday edition, or very soon
in any case.

Stephen Walker


#17

A week or so ago there was a news item on Yahoo about another one
which hasbeen found and which is identical to the one found in
Florida except this one is intact. There was a photo to confirm it.
As I recall they indicated it was a sorority emblem.

Jerry in Kodiak


#18
Surprisingly not. I don't know if the marks were burnished out or
maybe the piercing was done with chisels. Nothing that looks like
saw marks as we would normally expect. But it is definitely hand
made. 

30X magnification photo that shows one of the diamonds and the
piercing.


#19

I spoke at length to the Cuban gentleman who has a similar pendant
and some beautiful family lore that goes with it. He wishes to keep
his identity private, but is very eager to be helpful in solving the
mystery.

The text of his two e-mails that he sent on the weekend follows, as
well as a photo of his piece. He says that his piece is a copy of the
original family heirloom that was either made for his grandparents or
great-grandparents.

1st e-mail Saturday June 8, 2013:

I hope I may be able to provide you with that may lead
to identifying the owner of the pendant, you’re seeking to locate. At
the very least, I trust I may be able to help fill in a few more
pieces of the puzzle??

Some 40 years ago, as a young teen, my mother one day presented me
with a very special pendant (please see attached photos). It had been
given to her by my father, on the evening which they formally
announced their engagement; that was in Cuba, at a party hosted by my
great-grandmother in 1945. As the story goes, circa 1900 (on a
similar evening and occasion),the pendant was presented by my
paternal grandfather to my grandmother, and so on and so forth
leading back several generations of my father’s family. I believe the
one given to me by my mother was a replica of the original, first
gifted a few centuries ago by one of my ancestors to his soon-to-be
bride.

The pendant found by Mr. Rubinstein, which is pictured alongside Ms.

Brecher’s article in this morning’s The Miami Herald is missing a
section which should contains the letter “E”. You see, the pendant is
composed in such a way as to represent two all-important virtues: God
& love. As for God virtue, that obviously is symbolized by the cross;
I well understand how the letter “M” may have been interpreted to
also have a religious versus romantic connotation?? it does not in
fact denote the Virgin Mary, but rather, together with the letters
etched in the gold work of the other outer quadrants of the cross
forms the French “en moi” (e / n / m / oi), or in English, “in me”.
The love virtue represented in the pendant is a play on the words:
“Crois En Moi” (the French for “cross” in fact being “croix”, but
pronounced the same), or “believe in me” – that is, believe in God
and believe in love (or more specifically, believe in your future
betrothed).

You may well imagine my surprise when I came across Ms. Brecher’s
writing, today. The only difference I see in the two pendants are the
stones which form the central cross; the one given to me – also
gifted to the love of my life – has a cross of emeralds versus
sapphires. I wonder if this may be either another copy or even the
original pendant, which possibly may have been in the hands of one of
my relatives. I confess I have no recollection of loosing any family
members on either ValuJet Flight 592 or Eastern Flight 401, but
perhaps if were able to review the names of the souls who perished on
those fateful flights, I may be able to identify someone who is a
relation and, hopefully, lead to finding the pendant’s owner.

2nd e-mail Sunday June 9:

Thank you for your reply, as well as the interesting and
observations you share??

Havana and Paris enjoyed very close ties, especially throughout the
18th and 19th centuries; most affluent Cubans, although of Spanish
lineage, also spoke French – in my family, learning French was
traditional and obligatory down to my own generation. I also know
that my great-grandparents often visited Paris in the mid to late
19th century, and my father’s mother also studied there, before the
first World War.

It’s possible that the piece was acquired by one of them, while
visiting France; and, the tradition of presenting it to a future
bride may in fact have begun only a few generations ago; I only know
of it because of my mother’s telling versus it being a popular family
lore?? I frankly had no idea another pendant like this existed, but
as I speculated in my previous writing, there’s no reason not to
think more than one copy would have been made, and handed down within
the family. My father’s family was established in Cuba in the 16th
century, and enjoyed a privileged position in that country until the
Castro revolution, so the origins of the piece may in fact be in
accordance with my mother’s story, and indeed date back a good number
of years.

As requested I attach a few additional photos, which I hope may be
useful to you in determining how the pendant was crafted. The piece
is 2.2 centimeters in diameter, and although I’ve never had the gold
tested, it would appear to be between 18 and 22 karat. When I
received it from my mother it had only one clasp (I believe she wore
it as an amulet on a bracelet), and since then a second clasp has
been added to better accommodate its use as a necklace.

Stephen Walker


#20

HI Stephen,

Have you got any other images from that run? Anything with a raking
angle on the piercing?

Did you set up the SEM for synthetic contrast? (or are the dark
areas organic surface contamination?)

The tool marks look funny, which is why I’m curious. (Or, rather,
there aren’t any of the tool marks I’d expect. Which makes me
very curious.)

Regards,
Brian

PS–> Have you tried solvent cleaning to get the organics off of it?
I can’t imagine they’re anything but mud at this stage, so no reason
not to.

PPS–> I’ve never looked at a diamond under an SEM. So there’s a
stone in that settinge I suppose it’s not surprising that it’s
invisible, but weird nevertheless.

Is that ‘shadow’ ring around the inside of the setting a return from
the mud, or is it actually getting a return of the seat through the
diamond?