I live in asia and at one time worked in a violin shop where I came in early for work one morning finding a pile of paper scraps and several ashtrays full of cigarette butts -someone had worked late into the night transforming chinese instruments into italians-there was no need to change labels (which can be easily done) as there were none in the first place-many people order these instruments and put there own commercial type label in them - for example one could import such instruments and put in a label like: smith violins
i guess this is not deceiving as there is no place of origin and in many cases they are finished varnished and set up in a second country.(much like most cars today)
anyway this shop i don't work in anymore seemed to be doing a pretty good business at this and furthermore the boss had at his disposal several highly trained makers who not knowing what they were doing-taking trips to china to do quality control--he also supplied the chinese with european wood.
it seems from my information that there are many violin makers in china who received their training in italy so in some cases it is very difficult to tell the difference-they are constantly getting requests to change this and that and always improving the quality--it is quite difficult to tell just by looking at the wood as in fact most of the wood does not have black streaks in it(at least not the few hundred that have passed through my hands) one way of telling is that the maple is often highly flamed--but this is not a sure indication--another possible way is that often the craftsmanship is meticulously perfect and consistent however the pegs fingerboard and general setup are not all that good compared with the rest of the craftsmanship-the varnish often tends to be a bland sort of orange color as well-there is nothing definate to judge by and to make it more difficult there are many factories with many different workers-possibly 5 people doing nothing but scrolls.
there are many excellant makers in china and for the better student quality instruments -they are probably some of the best in the world today if sold at an honest price.
one note on tone: compared with the craftsmanship again , one would expect alot better tone then is often the case-they do tend to be a little harsh and metallic sounding (however they are quite good at an honest price) --in my oppinion this is due to the plates being left thick for the dealers who order them unfinished so that they can do the final graduation themselves as well as varnishing--even alot of the scrolls are left a bit full.
unless one has seen several hundred of these violins i think it is very difficult to know it was made in china-your best bet is to always go to a respectable dealer who would not risk his reputation to get involved in such a business of deceiving people.
yes ,this has been going on for centuries and is going on all over the world--the chinese just make the instruments and it`s up to the buyers to decide whether they are going to put a makers name with a coutry that are not true ,or, just a commercial brand name.
i guess it`s often hard to tell what one is in fact getting unless he or she goes to a reputable dealer; for example: where i live there is a certain famous maker from a certain country whos vilolins are much sought after-i have seen so many of his violins in so many shops and am always told that he only makes 10 or so a year !
well it seems about 30 of those 10 made each year end up here ! i really doubt at his age if he is even still making and that he could produce that many , however he does have alot of apprentices !
: I spoke with a respected violin appraiser today who indicated that some "violin makers" in Cremona are importing good Chinese instruments, then putting labels indicating a Cremona origin into them. Has anyone heard of or seen examples of this practice? Makes me suspicious of some of the violins I've seen on the web, on EBAY auctions, and so on.