From the late 17th century on, with the successive discoveries of gold, Brazil went from being a country with a chronic shortage of means of payment to one with an over-abundance. Gold, in many forms, circulated as money: gold dust, coined specie, and also as ingots, duly stamped with indications of authenticity and quality.
INGOT NO. 208
D. Maria I
Did you know that...
The oldest Brazilian gold ingot known today is dated 1778 and was produced in the foundry house of Sabará?
In May of 1500 Pero Vaz de Caminha informed the king that it had been impossible to discover gold, silver, or other metals in the newly discovered land of Brazil. Despite many expeditions, it was nearly two more centuries before the Portuguese, spurred on by knowledge of the riches encountered in Spanish America, were able to locate significant deposits of gold in the Brazilian territory.
From 1692-1695 on there were numerous discoveries of gold in the ‘Minas’ region, attracting hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life – places, backgrounds, and ages. Gold thereafter began to circulate in abundance in the form of dust, flakes, and ingots. Seeking to regulate the mining, taxation, and circulation of this gold, the Crown tried many systems, finally settling, in 1750/1751, on the system of foundry houses.
One of the most important of these facilities was established in Vila Rica (today, Ouro Preto) and it was there that this ingot was produced, assayed, and marked. Indicating 1796, it thus dates to a late phase and dwindling in the supply of Brazilian gold. In addition to the date, we see on its obverse various marks guaranteeing its quality and authenticity, including a series/registration number, the place of production, the weight (in eighths and grains), the fineness (in carats), and an identification of the official responsible for assaying the ingot.
In order to circulate legally, the ingot was to be accompanied by its respective title certificate, which recorded the identifying data and indicated its owner. Aside from this certificate there were also register books recording the location at which all ingots were produced. All of these cautions about authenticity were justified by the fact that the counterfeiting of ingots and guides was apparently quite common.