We hear from many people who believe they have found a Stradivarius violin because it bears a label stating this. Please read the following excerpt from the Smithsonian Institution gain insight as to what you may have.
“Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, and established his shop in Cremona, Italy, where he remained active until his death in 1737. His interpretation of geometry and design for the violin has served as a conceptual model for violin makers for more than 250 years.
Stradivari also made harps, guitars, violas, and cellos–more than 1,100 instruments in all, by current estimate. About 650 of these instruments survive today. In addition, thousands of violins have been made in tribute to Stradivari, copying his model and bearing labels that read “Stradivarius.” Therefore, the presence of a Stradivarius label in a violin has no bearing on whether the instrument is a genuine work of Stradivari himself.
The usual label, whether genuine or false, uses the Latin inscription Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno [date]. This inscription indicates the maker (Antonio Stradivari), the town (Cremona), and “made in the year,” followed by a date that is either printed or handwritten. Copies made after 1891 may also have a country of origin printed in English at the bottom of the label, such as “Made in Czechoslovakia,” or simply “Germany.” Such identification was required after 1891 by United States regulations on imported goods.
Thousands upon thousands of violins were made in the 19th century as inexpensive copies of the products of great Italian masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Affixing a label with the master’s name was not intended to deceive the purchaser but rather to indicate the model around which an instrument was designed. At that time, the purchaser knew he was buying an inexpensive violin and accepted the label as a reference to its derivation. As people rediscover these instruments today, the knowledge of where they came from is lost, and the labels can be misleading.
A violin’s authenticity (i.e., whether it is the product of the maker whose label or signature it bears) can only be determined through comparative study of design, model wood characteristics, and varnish texture. This expertise is gained through examination of hundreds or even thousands of instruments, and there is no substitute for an experienced eye.”