Gemstones worth €300,000 shared between Mont Blanc climber and authorities as man praised for handing find to police in 2013
Last modified on Mon 6 Dec 2021 06.22 EST
A treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires buried for decades on a glacier off France’s Mont Blanc has finally been shared between the climber who discovered them and local authorities, eight years after they were found.
The mountaineer stumbled across the precious stones in 2013. They had remained hidden in a metal box that was onboard an Indian plane that crashed in the desolate landscape some 50 years earlier.
“The stones have been shared this week” in two equal lots valued at about €150,000 ($169,000) each, the mayor of Chamonix, Eric Fournier, said.
He was “very happy” that events had been brought to a conclusion, Fournier said, in particular for the climber, whom he praised for his “integrity” in turning his find over to police, as required by law.
After being informed he would be given some of the jewels earlier this year, the climber told Le Parisien newspaper he did not “regret having been honest” and that he would use some of the money to renovate his apartment.
Two Air India planes crashed into Mont Blanc in 1950 and in 1966.
Over the years, climbers have routinely found debris, baggage and human remains from the two aircraft.
Authorities believe the precious stones are likely to have come from the 1966 flight, which had been en route from Mumbai to New York. The Boeing 707, flying from Mumbai, crashed on the south-west face of Mont Blanc on 24 January 1966.
The crash killed 117 people including the pioneer of India’s nuclear programme, Homi Jehangir Bhabha.
In September 2012, India took possession of a bag of diplomatic mail from the flight and last year melting ice from Mont Blanc’s Bossons glacier revealed copies of Indian newspapers with headlines from when Indira Gandhi became India’s prime minister.
Human remains found in the area in 2017 are also believed to come from the 1966 crash or that of the other Indian plane, the Malabar Princess, which came down in 1950.