Albertville, France – A French climber scaling a glacier off Mont Blanc got more than satisfaction for his efforts when he stumbled across a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires that had been buried for decades.
The jewels, estimated to be worth up to $332,000, lay hidden in a metal box that was on board an Indian plane that crashed in the desolate landscape some 50 years ago.
The climber turned the haul in to local police.
"This was an honest young man who very quickly realized that they belonged to someone who died on the glacier," local gendarmerie chief Sylvain Merly told AFP.
"He could have kept them but he preferred to give them to the police," Merly said, adding that the climber stumbled upon the box earlier this month and that some of the sachets containing the precious stones bore the stamp 'Made in India.'
French authorities are contacting their Indian counterparts to trace the owner or heirs of the jewels.
Under French law, the jewelry could be handed over to the mountaineer if these are not identified, Merly said.
Two Air India planes crashed into Mont Blanc in 1950 and in 1966. Climbers routinely find debris, baggage and human remains.
In September last year, India took possession of a bag of diplomatic mail from the Kangchenjunga, a Boeing 707 flying from Mumbai which crashed on the southwest face of Mont Blanc on January 24, 1966.
The crash killed 117 people including the pioneer of India's nuclear programme, Homi Jehangir Bhabha.