Everglades Mystery Jewel Update: Analysis and Cultural Context Offered by Walker Metalsmiths on Gold Cross Pendant Found Near ValuJet Crash Site

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High karat gold has titanium, chromium and iron contamination. The symbolic message of the cross is a French play on words; "Crois/croix en moi" for "believe in me."

Everglades Mystery Pendant

This partially melted gold pendant set with diamonds and sapphires was found near the crash site of VauluJet Flight 401 in the Everglades.

"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.

Stephen Walker of Walker Metalsmiths Celtic Jewelry announces two significant discoveries regarding the mysterious semi-melted gold and gemstone pendant found in the Everglades in February by python hunter Mark Rubinstein.


During the 2013 Python Challenge, a hunt organized by the State of Florida to try to control the population of invasive Burmese Pythons, a Coral Springs man, Mark Rubinstein found a small, partially melted pendant of gold, diamonds and sapphires. The location of the discovery was in the area of two catastrophic airline crashes, the December 29, 1972 crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 and the May 11, 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592. . The Valuejet crash killed all 110 passengers and crew aboard. Seventy five people survived the Eastern crash, but 101 perished.

Realizing that the treasure found in the swamp was almost certainly the property of one of the dead, Rubinstein decided to try to try to identify the owner with the goal of returning it to a family member or heir.

After identifying the materials with local jewelers, pictures of the pendant were posted on the Orchid internet jeweler’s forum. Because the piece resembled a Celtic cross, which is a cross with a circle around the center, Stephen Walker offered his knowledge of Celtic jewelry to the search.

Walker also wrote the initial news release that brought the story to the attention of several major news organizations.

Material test results

On June 5 Walker had the piece tested at the material sciences lab at Alfred University in Alfred, NY. Metallurgist Gerry Wynick ran tests with the University’s energy dispersive spectroscopy equipment. The results are that the pendant is 20 karat gold, alloyed with silver and copper. The eight rose cut diamonds are set in platinum bezels. The materials and style suggest that the handmade piece was created between 1880 and 1918.

Dark areas on the melted back of the pendant show that other materials stuck to the semi-molten gold while it was hot. Most significantly titanium is present, which is used extensively in aircraft. Also present in the contaminated area is chromium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Since the ValuJet crash was a result of a fire that began in the cargo hold, this is strong evidence that the piece is from the wreckage of that disaster.

Symbolic meaning of the pendant

The meaning of the seemingly Greek or Russian letters in the quadrants has been debated and pondered by those investigating the mystery since it first came to light. One letter appeared to be the Greek character phi. This lead to speculation about there being an Eastern Orthodox origin for the piece, rather than it being a Celtic cross. The phi is actually the letters "O" and "I" superimposed in the same space. This was reveled by a man, who prefers to remain anonymous, that saw the pendant in a story in the Saturday June 8 Miami Herald sent the following information by e-mail:

"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)."


The pendant weights 4.6 grams. At the current spot price for gold, the metal would be worth $170 for scrap. If the piece were intact, Walker estimates it's antique value at $1500 - $1800. To a relative of one of the victims lost in the crash, the piece would be priceless.

Walker and Rubinstein are working with Gail Dunham of the National Air Disaster Alliance/Foundation to reach family members of the victims of the ValuJet crash.

Walker Metalsmiths is a family run Celtic jewelry company operating in Andover, NY and Fairport, NY. The owner, Stephen Walker has recently published a book,The Modern History of Celtic Jewelry which is available on Amazon.com.

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