What’s so special about the Stradivarius Violin?

The name Stradivarius should be familiar to most people, even if they are not familiar with violin. It is a sacred name in the field, the kind of strings. For violinists, having a Strad is a dream, but the whopping price makes this dream a pie in the sky.

Antonio Stradivari in his workshop; Artist- Edgar Bundy British 1862-1922

Famed violinist Itzhak Perlman has played his Stradivarius for years and now says he could not afford to buy one at today’s prices. In different auctions around the world, the prices of a Stradivarius violin often vary from $1.6 million to 45 million. What’s so special about them?

Actually, a study says maybe nothing. The study found that most people can‘t tell the difference between a sky-priced Strad and a common modern violin.

[Can you tell which clip is performed on a Strad?]

Why are Stradivarius violins so expensive? There is no definite answer. Some say Stradivarius violins are prized as much for their unique and supreme craftsmanship.

According to the “Cambridge Companion to the Violin”, Stradivari’s most important contributions were the flatter and more powerful arching, and his new system of thickening. The biggest difference between a Stradivarius violin and the traditional Amati form is the straighter and stronger “C” bout. In addition, the f-holes are longer and straighter, with a larger scroll.

While Some believe it is the varnish that made Strads so special: a strong red pigment. While it offers the violins a beautiful depth of color, there is more to the varnish than what meets the eye. Violin makers agree that the wrong varnish can ruin a violin, silencing the vibrational quality of its wood.

For some exquisite songs like those of Paganini, it is believed that their beauty can only be heard with a Strad.

As Perlman described the sound of his Stradivarius,

“I can actually see the sound in my head…it has silk. God, it’s so difficult to describe…there is a sparkle to the sound.”

The price of Strads is also boosted by its rarity. There are only 650 in existence today. Among them, the most expensive ones are the ones crafted from 1700 to 1720, the golden period of Antonio Stradivarius. These violins are estimated to bid at the starting auction price of millions of dollars.

But not every violin with Stradivarius in its name has the same value. Most violins today are made in the shape of Stradivarius violin, but they are not strad. I have a strad-modeled Yamaha violin which worth a market value of $1,400, which is pricy enough for me but nothing compared to a real Strad.

Is it really impossible to make violins as good as Strads with modern technologies and tools? I am not sure. But the quality, rarity, fame and mysterious life of the maker Antonio Stradivarius himself make Strad itself unique. It represents a certain status that makes it exclusive to those who deserve it or rich enough to have it.

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