Jan 31, 2014

Telling an Angel from a Wolf: Evaluating Antique Violins

First created in Italy in 1555, the modern four-string bowed violin is arguably the world’s oldest continuously used musical instrument. It’s been played in every musical tradition from Baroque to Bluegrass. In the past 457 years, there have been thousands of violin makers in dozens of countries. The instruments are pervasive; chances are good that you or someone in your family has an old violin, stashed— unplayed—away in a closet or under a bed. These sequestered violins are moving from the closet to the auction floor with increasing frequency.

To the untrained eye, all these violins look alike. They are all the same general shape, size and color. And, many of them (especially the worst ones) have a label on the inside that references Stradivarius. How can you tell if a found violin is a gem? Usually by playing it; but many of these violins have been stored for so long that they are in no condition to be played. Even if the violins are set up and ready to be played, few people have the skill to do so. Without being played, there is no way to tell whether a particular violin sings like an angel or howls like a wolf. Read More

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