Between Jan. 12 and Feb. 10, over 1,600 snake hunters combed the Florida everglades looking for Burmese pythons as part of the state’s 2013 Python Challenge.
Hunters Mark Rubinstein, Gregg Jobes, and Joseph Post didn’t land in the winner’s circle or receive any trophies. In fact, they didn’t find a single python. But they did walk away with something worth more than contest prize money–gold.
According to NBC Miami, while searching for pythons, Rubinstein discovered a round piece of gold jewelry accented with sapphires in the shape of a cross and diamonds surrounding the perimeter. While a corner fragment of the jewel is melted, the majority of the piece is in good condition, and likely worth a substantial sum.
“We were walking back along a levee and something in the ground just caught my eye. I walked back and forth to make sure. I walked over and dug it out of the dirt.”
The piece’s origin and owner is a mystery Rubinstein is trying to solve with the help of a few jewelers and historians, and so far, they’re placing the Celtic design around the 17th century. In another weird twist, the charm might have belonged to an airline passenger on one of two flights, one in 1972 and one in 1996, that crashed in the area.
But Rubinstein says he’s not after any money–he’d rather see the gold piece returned to its rightful owner.
“When I talked to the other two guys I was out there with, we all kind of made the same expression which was like, ‘We got to get this back to somebody and maybe we can bring a little happiness to somebody that’s had some very bad sorrow,'” Rubinstein said.