All, This may be a bit out of sorts but this gentleman, who is an
acquaintance of mine, has a problem that needs solving. I am sending
you the text of an email from him in the hopes that someone can
help. Cheers, Don in South Florida
Was participating in the Python Challenge and found a gold pendant
while in the swamps.
Pictures are attached.
Turns out that we were in an area about 300 yards east of the
Valujet crash site (May 11 1996) and in the debris field area of the
Eastern Flight 401 (December 29 1972)
Took it to a jeweler and confirmed the gold is gold and the diamonds
are diamonds. Cut on the diamonds are rose cut. Style out dated and
not that common anymore.
A portion of the pendant/medallion has been melted from something.
The symbols are the big kicker. Each of the three visible arms of
the square cross have different symbols. One looks familiar.
Did some checking into Gallic, Celtic, Catholic Church, Papal
symbols, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Saints symbols, etc. Have
not found a match yet. The leaves on it (grouped in threes) to not
follow what most Gallic and Celtic designs show.
Goal is to find a little out about it. If it is from one of the two
crashes, I would like (strongly) to get it back to the rightful
heirs. Would be some really good karma for all involved.
Please feel free to forward this to anyone that may have some
insight on the symbols and design.
Actually I'd like to hear about the python challenge. A bit off
topic but you've whetted my interest.
Not going to be of a whole lot of use to you, but I can add a few
tidbits to the pile.
Wish the pictures were in focus. It makes things easier to ID.
Couple of points:
Yes, something *very* hot melted the thing, and did it fast.
Otherwise the damage would have been more diffuse.
Sounds like an avgas fire. Check to see if the stones aren't
cracked. If they got hot in a fire, and then dumped into cold swamp
water, they'd likely crack.
At a guess, ValuJet 592 is the more likely candidate: it went down
from a fire in the cargo compartment. It also slammed into the swamp
nose down, heading straight down, at +500 MPH. Not much of a debris
field. Some indication that it may have started to break up in the
air right before impact, which would widen the path.
Eastern 401 flew into the ground intact, at low(ish) speed. Human
and auto pilot error, not any sort of internal fire or explosion, so
there wasn't anything to generate that sort of heat until the crash.
It did burn after the crash, but from what I could dig up (not much)
there isn't much talk about fire.
What's interesting is that part of it got hot enough to melt, but
not all of it, and it looks like the cold side didn't get very hot
at all. Which is weird, given how hot the *other* side got. Even
weirder: if I read the melting pattern right, the hot side was
*down*, not up. Which rules out the idea of half of it being buried
in mud (protected) while part of it got fried in a fire.
A totally stupid, off-the-cuff-guess says to look at passengers in
the rear of ValuJet 592. If it did break up before impact, their
items would have the widest dispersion. From what I read, the
forward part of the plane left a crater, not a debris field. Not much
of that one was recovered: no survivors, plus a lot of risk to the
Take that as what it's worth, but I hope it helps.
Let us know how it turns out.
Fascinating find! It certainly looks Celtic and liturgical. The
leaves in sets of three are very much in the "tree of life" motif
that can be seen in the Book of Kells and other sources. The style
does not look like any Celtic jeweler I am familiar with. I am
actually writing a book on the subject, so I have been looking pretty
hard. The style looks a lot like the Celtic Revival style of Thomas
Augustus O'Shaughnessy (1870-1956) who is mostly known for his
stained glass windows in Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago in the
1920s. I am unaware of any jewelry made by O'Shaunghnessy. The four
symbols between the arms of the cross appear to be abstract
simplifications of something, but I can't really make them out. I
would guess by the color and lack of firescale that it is higher
karat gold. Just guessing - I would say look for an Episcopal,
Anglican or Roman Catholic clergyman in the passenger lists. There
was a gap between the interest in Celtic design in jewelry that was
spawned by the Celtic Revival of about 1850-1930 and the Celtic
Renaissance which picked up around 1990.During the in-between years
much of the interest in "Celtic Christianity" came from Anglicans.
The piece could have been made at any time, since there is a tendency
to make Celtic things in an archaic style and using materials that
are a reference to the past.
I would like to see better pictures, know the size and karat of the
I think it's an unusual enough of a piece, that if you can get your
hands on the passenger/crew lists for those flights you could
contact kin or survivors (if any) and inquire if anyone remembers so
and so wearing a gold circular cross disc with blue and white
stones... or send the pics... either way definitly going to be a good
hunt for some good karma.
i'd love to know how this pans out? perhaps involve the mediae
Don - the site here http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep8036
is for the national transportation safety board which as you know is
in charge of the investigation of airline crashes. If they are not
directly involved in returning goods to survivors and heirs, then
they would know who is and point you in the right direction to
identify the possible current owner of the item. Odd that only part
of it s melted but fire is a strange thing and sometimes moves on
without doing total damage. If the item in question could talk, it
would have quite a story to tell, regardless of it's reason to be in
the swamp. Good luck in finding the owner -- I'm sure is is a
precious memento for someone, even though the melting may bring on
more grief for a time. You are right - it is very good karma to have
it returned. It could be the only tangible memory piece of an
individual now departed.
All the best on a melty day on the Island
Rather than try to get a passenger list, why not contact a major
news service and ask for help. Shephard Smith on Fox (independent) is
from the south and often has human interest stories. He might jump to
help on this.
Good luck, MA
Interesting piece, Mark.
I don't know if this will do you any good, but I remember that one
of those crashes, and I believe it was Eastern Flight 401 (December
29 1972), was caused by leaking oxygen tanks in the cargo hold that
were somehow ignited, which caused a horrific inferno aboard the
Seeing the partially melted jewel makes me think that it was
probably on that flight - possibly a clue to the owner.
Trying to contact individual family members would be less than
useless. First, nobody is going to give you a list of surviving
family with contact and even if you could get one,
imagine spending hundreds of hours trying to sort out a real owner
from someone looking for something for free. Better to let the media
sort it out (they LOVE this kind of stuff) and see where it goes.
Another thought: the blue and white color scheme was used on a number
of Scottish Celtic crosses in the late 19th century that were usually
silver with enamel and were usually very nice. Blue and white are the
colors of the Saltaire (St. Andrew's Cross) flag of Scotland. Church
of Scotland Presbyterians would have not been too keen on fancy
religious jewelry in those days, so the original audience for that
kind of thing was more likely to have been Scottish Episcopalians.
The rose cut diamonds would also tend to make you think it is older,
but almost all modern Celtic jewelry has a sort of fake-antique thing
going on. I have done work for a number of independent Celtic
Christian clergy and fellowships. There does seem to be a
concentration of them in Florida. But it is all speculation.
It might not really be Celtic at all. Many of those motifs are
shared with other cultures.
I don't have anything to add to the investigation, but am fascinated
to find out the results of your search. Wonderful thing for you to
do. Please keep us all informed how this turns out!
This piece is similar to the work I do incorporating symbols with
Here is what I see in the design:
A circular piece in gold which I believe may be a pendant, as I see
no evidence of a pin assembly.
It originally held 10 concentrically placed old mine cut diamonds
set in bezels which protected them more than the prong set
sapphires. With 8 or 9 of the diamonds still present, in the melted
I think I can see the old mine cut culets on the back of the piece,
poking through the organic grime. And a fish eye table on at least
one of the diamonds on the bottom of the front.
On the back, I also see beautifully detailed stem spirals and
trefoil leaves set between each diamond.
The focus of the piece is a byzantine style pectoral cross probably
set with prong set sapphires.
The symbols between the arms of the cross are key. They may be
stylized capital letters of the Greek alphabet.
I see a partially melted Omega on the bottom of the back.
I see a stylized Phi at the top of the back.
The third symbol, if read from the center of the cross, may be Mu.
If read hanging as a pendant, with Omega being at the top, the
stylized symbol may be Sigma, or Epsilon, as we're trying to crunch
it into a triangular space. Artistic license, you know.
The sharpness of the remaining detail indicates that it may have
been packed in something which partially protected it.
The Celts, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox all use both the Byzantine
Pectoral cross, and the Trefoil symbols, though the Celts usually use
an interwoven Trefoil.
The Greeks, as well as Sororities use the capital Greek letters.
Without knowing the size, this piece seems more feminine than
If they are indeed, old mine cut diamonds, then we have a reduced
Guesses all, without inspecting it myself, but I feel we must help
Mark Rubenstein on his honorable quest to return it to it's family.
If you want to clean this piece up a bit, without subjecting it to
the harshness of an ultrasonic which could rattle some of it apart, I
have had very good luck on really old pieces using Oxyclean granules
dissolved in hot water to soak the piece overnight, and using a soft
toothbrush to coax the grime out next day. This is much gentler than
a lye bath. Then perhaps you may find hallmarks identifying the
jeweler, or country of origin of this custom piece.
I hope that some of the liturgical jewelers on Orchid will weigh in
on this puzzle.
Please do follow up on this piece, and it's journey home, as I for
one love knowing that Good Karma has manifested yet again!
I don't know if this will do you any good, but I remember that one
of those crashes, and I believe it was Eastern Flight 401
(December 29 1972), was caused by leaking oxygen tanks in the cargo
hold that were somehow ignited, which caused a horrific inferno
aboard the plane.
Having a background in aviation, Id second that.
Its worth a try, the 1st contact for a list of passengers and crew
for Eastern flight 401 will be the airline itself, if still in
existence of course.
Most luggage is palletized in the aircraft hold under the passenger
deck, as its fusing indicates its unlikely to have been worn.
Its now some 40 yrs since the crash happened, tracing folk will not
be easy as they move, pass away etc.
The airline is likely to be the most sympathetic organisation to
listen to your wish and would im shure communicate with you
confidentially in the first instance, before this ever needs to go
As for Lee's comments, a suitably worded letter asking for possible
details of jewellery belonging to each passenger will prevent the
fraudsters from claiming title.
Its worth doing, as its the right thing to do.
Id call the airline and talk to someone first, to find out how to go
about this project. It would be good pr for them in any case.
It is definitely an ecclesiastical piece- probably from the 20th
century( turn of the 20th c.) due to the rose cut diamonds. It is
probably also catholic or episcopalian- as eastern orthodox clergy
don't wear rings.
etc. other than a cross and would be inherited from the hierarchical
clergy before the current one. Most jewellery worn by the hierarchy
in the catholic and episcopal churches are stone set, again important
pieces (like those awarded through the papacy, archbishoprics, etc or
given by a cardinal) would be stone set. Rings and large pendants are
forbidden by lesser clergymen and women as is the case in the
Episcopalian belief system. Women religious in the catholic belief
system are allowed only a gold band style ring and no pendant of the
type in your photos is allowed ("gemmed" as it is termed) by vatican
Usually religious order hierarchy - for example a fransiscan Bishop-
would wear blue as opposed to the purple and scarlet of "ordinary"
catholic bishops- for this reason and the engraving on the piece in
the photos I would guess, or rather bet, the piece belonged- AT ONE
TIME- to a hierarchical religious man connected to the catholic
church, but not a cardinal, bishop, archbishop, etc. and from Europe
as opposed to the USA. Often these pieces are bequeathed to family
members upon the death of the religious person as opposed to leaving
it to the church as its somewhat a vanity since it was not a gift
from the papacy, or one of the 3 rings common in either belief system
allowed by religious law (the papacy) and definitely not an ordinary
gift from the the Archbishop of Canterbury as specified, however in
the R. Catholic church cardinals are allowed to design rings (one of
the 3 "allowed") to mark significant events in their tertian-ship or
religious life. Pendants of the size in the photos are more likely to
have had connections to a Northern Isles of the United kingdom order.
Modern rings, etc. are more likely wide heavy gold bands with
engraving of religious symbols. Religious order pendants are also
heavy gold and in general have medieval connections (i. e. Order of
Bath, created and bestowed first by QE1 to knight companions that
were religious having their own churches, etc.) and continue to be
awarded - However waht you have is more akin to a brotherhood, like
benedictines, fransiscans, etc. The sapphires give us a clue as
though they are designs of personal taste if catholic follow a
written/papalitic prescription chartered when an order was given a
charter which could have been anywhere from the 10th c. on- the ones
in the photo I would guess THE DESIGN dates to around the 17th c. or
later and being gold with celtic symbols, and 12 diamonds that appear
to be of a carat each in white metal bezel settings, with the
repetitive symbol closely matching the order of St. Benedict (the
Benedictine Oblate International) as opposed to a random stylisation
the engraver came up with!.I am personally leaning towards a
Benedictine order - and there are hundreds on the planet- because
they don't take a vow of poverty, some benedictines personally being
quite wealthy- and not being roman catholic the blue sapphires fit
some hierarchical stations held by "monks" or other religious having
taken formal vows within the scope of worldwide Benedictine Prelate's
see. i am researching it further with some ecclisiastical painting
and decorating contractors I know that study restoration of religious
items and will get back to you in a day or so, if not sooner. RER
I agree with Mary Atwater; contact the news media, and ask for their
assistance. But don't allow them to show the piece on air; too many
people will jump on the bandwagon to claim it. Rather, give a general
description, but leave out some details. If someone comes forward
with an accurate description - or better yet, a photograph of the
piece - you'll then know they're legit.
Best of luck to your friend and his quest. Please keep us informed as
tohow it progresses. Oh, and ow did he do in the challenge? I
understand that out of 1500 people, only 68 pythons were taken.
Unfortunately, that's barely a single clutch of eggs for the larger
pythons. Sure hope they make this an annual event, or you can kiss
the biodiversity of the Everglades goodbye.