So, you found a Stradivarius
In our industry we receive numerous e-mail messages and
telephone calls every month from people who have inherited or
purchased a "Stradivarius" violin.
We will not tell you that it is not the genuine article. That
would be unethical and foolish, but we will share some
information with you to help you judge your course of action.
Since well before the turn of the twentieth century,
manufacturers of violins, often nestled in the valleys of
southern as well as western and eastern Germany, were producing
tens of thousands of violins annually, labelled "Antonius
Stradiuarius, Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno 17." They had a circular
embellishment on these labels that included a cross above the
initials "A" and "S". More often than not, the last two digits
of the date were penciled or inked in by hand. Sometimes it was
These manufacturers, housed in towns such as Bubenreuth,
Mittenwald, Markneukirchen, and Mirecourt, to mention a few,
mass produced these violins, in part by hand or completely by
machine, and, until 1957, labelled them exactly as the master
did. After that date, for legal reasons, the words "Copy of"
were often included on the labels.
They were also made world-wide in such places as Bulgaria,
China, Czechoslovakia, France, Japan, England and elsewhere.
Millions of these instruments exist today.
Antonio, along with his sons are believed to have made more than
1,100 instruments during his lifetime of which roughly 512
violins are thought to still remain, depending on who you're
It is also known that many were destroyed either by fire or
accident, lost at sea or in floods, or during the fire-bombing
of Dresden and other cities, leaving virtually none unaccounted
To determine whether yours is the genuine article you will need
to take it in person to an expert near you. Such experts may be
found among members of the American Federation of Violin and Bow
Makers listed in the pages of this web site. These experts may,
and often do, charge for their time and opinion.
At the very end, the odds that you have found a genuine
Stradivari will be very slim indeed.
Nonetheless your find might be compared to an oyster: If you
don't find a pearl inside, you can still have a good meal. In
other words, make beautiful music with it!