Maybe while helping your Grandparents clean out their attic, you stumbled upon what looks like a great violin. Maybe the label says "Stratovarius"? While it's improbable, you've just stumbled upon one of the most revered, rare, and valuable violins in existence, just maybe, you've come across an older violin that is well worth getting fixed. Whatever the circumstances, many people wonder if some instruments are worth the trouble and expense of repair, and we're here to help!
The violin is a beautiful instrument with many facets that affect its worth. Much like a fine wine, great violins only get better with age, whereas an inexpensive, poorly crafted violin will only worsen. But, you can learn some essential clues about what makes a fine violin that will help your decision. And while the only absolute rule of thumb is to have a professional luthier (or dealer) personally inspect the violin, these tips can give you an idea of whether your violin is worth repairing.
Some Clues and helpful hints that may indicate worth:
Again, only a dealer, a luthier, or even a trusted violin teacher will be able to tell you if you should invest in repairing your violin. Often, string replacements and cleaning, refitting the bridge, soundpost, or other minor fixes can make a massive difference in the look and sound of an older violin.
However, sometimes the repairs will exceed the worth of the instrument. If your violin has sentimental value and you want to play it because it belonged to your grandfather or great-grandfather, don't hesitate. Please come in to see us for complete repairs and guidance!
Alternately, if you are looking for a value-priced violin to serve as a beginner instrument, repair costs may exceed the price of a new, quality crafted outfit from a major brand. In that case, your best option may be to chalk up that 'flea market find' to a lesson in experience and move on.
These clues are easy to spot and make it worth your while to consider a closer look:
Sometimes, a Paper Label inside the violin—can indicate that a craftsman has created the instrument. Many fine violins were made by individuals who never received fame or fortune and perhaps only crafted a handful of instruments in their lifetime. If you can glimpse a paper label, even one that is yellowed and curled, the violin may indeed be an exceptional instrument worthy of repair.
Although not always an accurate indicator, purfling offers an excellent clue about a violin's worth. If you can see that the decorative inlay around the edge of the violin is wood, not painted, then that is a sign that the violin might be worth repairing. However, don't lean too heavily on this clue; Paolo Antonio Testore often painted his purfling or omitted it.
Scroll—if the scroll looks artistic and detailed, this is another good indicator that you should bring the violin into our shop for appraisal. Typically, exceptional violins will feature carvings that are pleasing to look at and continue well into the center of the scroll.
Things That Don't Matter
Don't worry too much about crud, grime, or other gunk; it's typically easy to remove.
Missing pieces—parts of the violin can become detached with age. The glue used (hide glue) allows "crackling," meaning it cracks easily with sufficient pressure. This particular type of adhesive is used intentionally, allowing a luthier to make instrument repairs. Other instrument pieces, such as their fingerboard, bridge, chin rest, pegs, can be replaced if the violin is worth it.
Separated seams—regluing an instrument's seams is a standard repair.
Things that Can Be Fixed or Restored
If the violin is of fine quality, nearly everything on the instrument can be restored. However, the restoration process is more complex, time-consuming, and thus more costly for certain repairs. Always refer to a professional for an appraisal of the instrument.
Tiny cracks (very tight and less than 2-3 inches long)
Routine refitting tasks (Soundpost and bridge adjustments (or replacement), re-string, etc.)
More Intricate (expensive) Repairs
Broken or replacement pieces
Rib and soundpost patches, and other structural repairs
Fingerboard repair or replacement
An artisan-crafted instrument only gets better with age, and even under the most severe neglect, can be restored to beautiful functionality. If you think your violin may be worth it, it's worth your time to bring it to us, and we'll guide you through the process with honesty, integrity, and professionalism!