Diamond and Sapphire Jewel Found at Old Plane Crash Site

PHOTO: Mark Rubinstein holds a gold pendant with sapphires forming a cross inside a circle of diamonds, that he found while python hunting in the Florida Everglades, May 31, 2013.
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Mark Rubinstein found a diamond in the rough, and he's looking for its owner.

Rubinstein, a resident of Coral Springs, Fla., was hunting for pythons in the Everglades earlier this year when he came across a gleaming piece of jewelry.

The gold, sapphire, and diamond jewel was partially melted and had nothing on it to signify its owner, according to Stephen Walker, a jeweler based in Andover, N.Y., who is helping Rubinstein to trace the piece to its original owner.

"He was walking along a levee. He's going out in the swamp on the weekend looking for pythons, taking a fairly easy route, and he saw this thing off in the grass and it looked out of place," said Walker, who is a specialist in Celtic jewelry.

"So he and his buddies pawed through the grass and after awhile found it. It's a piece of gold with diamonds and sapphires," he said. "The backstory is a mystery, because where he found it is in a debris field of one plane crash, a 1972 crash, and only a few hundred yards from where a ValuJet went down in 1996."

Rubinstein did not immediately return calls for comment from ABC News.

Walker said that Rubinstein posted an image of the gem to a jewelry forum, where Walker and other jewelry experts saw it and tried to identify its cultural markers.

"The jewelers were all, what is it, what culture is it from, talking about the diamond surviving the heat, and I'm thinking, I'm sort of an expert on Celtic jewelry, Celtic crosses, and I weighed in and actually don't think it's Celtic. I think it's more Middle Eastern, Greek or Russian," he said.

The jewel was found in a part of the Everglades west of Fort Lauderdale where Eastern Flight 401, a New York flight heading for Miami, crashed in 1972, and ValuJet Flight 592, an Atlanta flight that caught fire and crashed in 1996. All 109 of the passengers and crew members on the ValuJet flight died in the blaze and crash, but 77 out of 176 people survived the Eastern flight crash.

Walker speculated that the jewel could have been from the ValuJet flight, as it showed partial melting that could have been caused in the fire.

Rubinstein then sent Walker some of his field notes and information about where the piece was found, and Walker began a campaign to get the word out about the lost jewel and try to find its owner. Rubinstein mailed the jewel to Walker, and he began sifting through leads trickling in about who the piece might belong to.

"We were contacted by somebody when it first came out who knew one of the dead on one of these flights. It sounds really plausible, but we've really been stymied about contacting anybody that knew them," Walker said. "We don't want to get somebody's hopes up."

Walker is now working with a retired law enforcement investigator to help ensure that the piece ends up in the hands of the owner's family.

"We're thinking we've got to get this where people can see it so someone can say, 'Oh that belonged to my aunt' or something," he said.

He is collecting leads through his jewelry business, Walker Metalsmiths in Andover.

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