‘So you found a Stradivarius in your garage?’

~ Stradivari n. Antonio 1644-1737, Italian violin, viola and cello maker.

~ Stradivarius, n. any of a number of violins manufactured by Antonio Stradivari or his family.

~ Often shortened to (informal) Strad.

So you’ve heaved open an ancient trunk at the very back of the garage, and discover an old violin case with a violin inside. You take it out and hold it up to the light, peering through the f-holes to see what the label says. And lo and behold, it says “Antonio Stradivarius”, or something of the sort.

So does this mean you have an extremely valuable violin in your hands? Before you start jumping for joy, take a deep breath and read this:

Lots of violins made in the 19th and 20th centuries, which definitely aren’t Strads, have Stradivarius labels glued inside them. Have another look at the label. If it says, “Made in Germany” or “made in Czechoslovakia” then you can say right now that it’s definitely not a Strad – they were all made in Italy. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good violin, though – fake Strad labels appear in all sorts of violins, from very basic to quite good quality.

If you’d like to know more about your violin, bring it in to show Cath Newhook at The Stringed Instrument Company Ltd, or another reputable violin dealer. Even if the label means nothing, the style, workmanship and materials can all give clues as to where and when the instrument was made.

Immigrants brought a large number of violins to New Zealand in the 19th century and before the First World War, and many are still sitting forgotten in trunks in basements and garages. Once in a while one turns out to be very valuable – you never know!

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