A climber stumbled upon a box filled with gems, purportedly worth €300,000, in the wreckage of an Air India flight on Mont Blanc. Authorities allowed him to keep half the stones as a reward for reporting the find.
Later, when he tried to sell the gems and had them professionally evaluated, he learned that his initial estimate was far off. Gemologists valued his share of emeralds, sapphires, and rubies at only about €5,000, contrary to the €150,000 he had been told, The Times reported.
However, despite the initial undervaluation, the climber decided to auction the gems. To his delight, they fetched €25,690, exceeding their valuation by more than five times.
The climber, who chose to remain anonymous, discovered the hoard in 2013 on a glacier where the Air India Boeing had crashed in 1966.
Reflecting on the find, he said “It was a huge surprise and I said to myself, ‘This is too good to be true’.”
He surrendered the gems to the police, and they were secured while awaiting any potential claims from the owner’s family.
However, no one stepped forward to claim them.
According to French law, the gems were divided between the climber and the town of Chamonix. The town, in turn, donated the stones to the local Museum of Crystals.
Speculating, a spokesperson for the museum said, “They must have belonged to a precious stones trader who was flying from Bombay to deliver them.”
The gems were split into smaller lots for the auction.
A buyer named Agnès, who chose not to disclose her full name, said she bought them for sentimental reasons and as souvenirs of what happened, even though it was a tragedy.
Due to the effects of climate change, debris from the crash site has been gradually emerging as the glacier melts. Notably, one of the airliner’s wheels became visible three months ago.
The flight crashed as the pilot descended towards Geneva for a stopover, resulting in killing all 117 passengers and crew members.
The accident was attributed to a misunderstanding between the Geneva control tower and the pilot, who mistakenly believed he had already flown over Mont Blanc.
Over the years, various items from the flight, such as newspapers and a bag of diplomatic mail, have been discovered.
The gems were found spilling out of a metal box near part of the undercarriage.