So, you found a Stradivarius violin!
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, labeled "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 left blank.
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 asking.
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 for.
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!
Member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers
Member The Violin Society of America