On August 13,
1938 Brazil revealed its greatest gem when a diamond weighing 726.6 carats
was picked up in the gravels of the San Antonio River in the Coromandel
district of Minas Gerais. Two garimpeiros
(diamond diggers or prospectors), Joaquim Venancio Tiago and Manoel
Miguel Domingues, were the lucky finders. This
precious stone weighed around 726.6 carats.
The two men
sold the diamond to a broker for $56,000, who rapidly sold it for $235,000. The buyer in
turn sold the gem to a Dutch syndicate represented by the Dutch Union Bank of
Amsterdam. By then the diamond had been named "President Vargas" in
honor of Getulio Dornelles Vargas, president of Brazil (1930-45 and
While the stone remained in the bank's safety deposit vault Harry Winston
learned of its existence through his brokers in Brazil, who advised him of
its rare quality and exceptional size, and he travelled to London to purchase
it. The diamond was simply sent by
ordinary registered mail at a cost of seventy cents although it had been
insured by Lloyds for $750,000.
On account of its unusual formation it was decided to cleave the President
Vargas. A 20-carat piece was sawn from the top before the first cleaving;
from this a pear shape, weighing 10.05 carats, was fashioned. The cleaving of
the diamond was to result in two pieces, one of 150 carats and the other of
Being D-color diamonds*, the Vargas diamonds are most probably
type IIa diamonds, chemically pure and structurally
twenty-nine gems were fashioned from the President Vargas, nineteen sizeable
and ten smaller ones weighing a total of 411.06 carats. They comprised
sixteen emerald cuts, one pear shape, one marquise and, among the lesser
gems, ten triangles and one baguette.
"President Vargas" has been retained by the largest gem, an
emerald-cut weighing 48.26 carats. For a number of years this diamond was
owned by the wife of Mr. Robert W.Windfohr
of Fort Worth, Texas, who purchased it in 1944.
In 1958 Harry
Winston repurchased and recut it to a flawless 44.17 carats stone, selling it
again in 1961. The identities of the other buyers are not known.
In recent years two of the emerald cuts, numbers IV and VI, have come up for
sale at Sotheby's in New York. In April 1989 President Vargas IV, weighing
28.03 carats, formerly among the jewels of Lydia Morrison, fetched $781,000,
while in October 1992, President Vargas VI, weighing 25.4 carats, sold for
information: ranking of different diamond colors
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