French climber handed Mont Blanc gems after 2013 find

Mont Blanc
The metal box is believed to be from one of two Air India planes which crashed into Mont Blanc

A climber who stumbled upon a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires that had been buried for decades on France’s Mont Blanc has now been given half of the gems he found in a box.

The climber, who has not been named, discovered the precious gems in 2013. It is believed that the box belonged to someone on board an Indian plane that crashed half a century earlier. The mountaineer was praised after handing the box over to police, as is required by French law.

But now he has been rewarded with half of the trove of hundreds of precious stones, with the local authority in Chamonix taking the other half, after an unsuccessful attempt to locate the family of the owner in India.

The gems have now been shared into two equal lots valued at around €150,000 (£128,000) each, Chamonix mayor Eric Fournier told the AFP news agency. He praised the climber for his “integrity” in turning his find in to police.

Two Air India planes crashed into Mont Blanc, the first in 1950, killing 48. In 1966 a second flight operated by India’s national carrier hit the mountain, with 117 on board.

Officials believe the precious stones are likely to have come from the 1966 flight, which was en route from Mumbai to New York when it crashed.

Human remains have since been found on the mountain, as well as luggage belonging to those on board.

In 2012, a bag carrying diplomatic mail from India was found. The bag contained newspapers, calendars and a personal letter from 1966.

The physicist known as the “father” of India’s nuclear programme, Homi J Bhabha, was among those killed in the 1966 crash.

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