How to identify a Stradivarius

By | April 4, 2021


Know that counterfeits are incredible in the shadow world for collecting musical instruments. Finding a Stradivarius label in a violin is virtually pointless, as a cottage industry in the manufacture and installation of false labels in musical instruments has flourished for centuries.


Look for the Traditional Stradivari label, which contains a Latin inscription, ‘Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno’ to denote the violin maker’s name, the city (Cremona) where the instrument was made and the year followed by a month and day, either printed or handwritten. Even this label is no guarantee that the instrument is genuine.


Hire an appraiser who will be worth the money if you have a genuine Stradivarius. Otherwise, you can identify 270-year-old spruce and maple and varnish stains and textures. Stradivari has also been made from wood with minerals, including potassium silicate, Bianca, potassium borate and sodium, to improve the sound properties. Sophisticated chemical tests that can not damage the instrument are required to establish authenticity. Contact the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers to find an expert assessor (see Resources).


Realize that hundreds of thousands of violins have been made over the past 300 years using methods and patterns that were paved by Stradivari. You have a better chance of discovering an excellent Stradivarius copy (which can also be a bit of money) rather than a real instrument built by Stradivari itself.


Review research by the Smithsonian Institution, which states that ‘a violin’s authenticity can only be determined by comparative study of design, model, wood properties and lacquer texture. ‘Authentication requires extensive testing and comparisons by an experienced violin maker.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not buy a rare item without consulting a trusted, impartial expert.
  • Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was a famous luthier master (maker of stringed instruments) who made about 1,200 stringed instruments, each of them by hand. Today, more than 270 years later, there are still only about half of the instruments he made. Almost all of them are reported. Auction prices of $ 3.5 million per Stradivarius are not uncommon, but the actual sale of a Stradivarius is rare. Two Stradivarius violins are on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, DC Three are held by the US Library of Congress. Music historians are almost unanimous in the belief that Stradivari produced his finest work between 1698 and 1725. Although Stradivarius violins were made until his death, many made after 1730 are believed to have been created by the master’s sons, Francesco and Omobono. Expert is almost always required to verify a genuine Stradivarius.