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The President Vargas

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From the Archives : Originally published July 03rd, 2009
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Category : Coins and treasures

 

 

 

 

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 1951-54).

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 550 carats.

 

Being D-color diamonds*, the Vargas diamonds are most probably type IIa diamonds, chemically pure and structurally perfect diamonds.



In all, 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.


 

 




The name "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 $396,000.



 

* For information: ranking of different diamond colors




  

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