Climber Finally Gets Reward from Jewels He Found from Mont Blanc Plane Crash

Climbing History
Mont Blanc plane crash
Summit view near Mont Blanc.

On January 24, 1966, an Air India plane carrying 117 passengers went missing over the French Alps. The Boeing 707 was chartered from Mumbai (then Bombay) to New York.

In 2013, a Chamonix mountaineer unearthed a metal box containing nearly 100 precious stones — rubies, sapphires, and emeralds while climbing the Bossons Glacier on Mont Blanc. The man turned his findings over to the authorities. They determined that the box was from that ill-fated Air India crash. It would be eight years before the alpinist received the stones, as compensation for finding them and turning them in.

Jewels from the Air Indian crash. Photo: Wikipedia

It’s unclear if Indian and American officials could identify any rightful owners of the trove or any heirs —  the jewels were probably en route to New York for selling.

According to Chamonix’s Mayor Eric Fournier, the mountaineer will share the gems 50-50 with local authorities. Both received the stones in lots worth $169,000 each.

“You can say the climber who made this find is someone very honest,” local gendarme chief Sylvain Merly said back in 2013. “He saw very well that what he had in his hands was something very valuable, realizing straight away that it was precious stones that had been very carefully wrapped. He was a mountaineer; he knew the history of the two plane crashes here and realized that this find was likely linked to those crashes.”

For years, the Bossons Glacier had spewed to the surface “all sorts of remnants” from the Mont Blanc plane crash. These have included newspapers, diplomatic mail, clothing, mechanical components, sheet metal, and human remains.

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About the Author

Jilli Cluff

Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college.
After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life.
She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network.
She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.

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Jmaf
Jmaf
1 month ago

Why do the “local authorities” get to keep 1/2? These jewels never belonged to the French Government, they were privately owned and found by a private citizen. I don’t understand that at all.

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Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Jmaf

A lot of countries have rules like that. They’re sometimes called treasure trove laws. I think the idea is that finds like this, with no traceable owners (they did look, but didn’t find anyone), don’t belong to anyone, so they become property of the state. A portion is rewarded to the finder as compensation, and to encourage people to turn them in.

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