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Chinese violins with Cremona labels?


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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.

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: 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.

Not just cremona violin maker but elsewhere too like US for example.

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I have seen a few instruments labeled Cremona in which I felt the "white" work originated in China.... I have also seen the same with some instruments bearing US labels (as mentioned in the post below).

Not a new idea.... In the 19th and 20th centuries, some Italian makers imported "white" fiddles from France and Germany which were then finished and labeled as from their hands. In many cases this was a bit "closer to home", so to speak. For example, a French maker was trained in the shop of a (famous) Italian violin making family and later produced work from his homeland for the same makers.

Jeffrey

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: Not just cremona violin maker but elsewhere too like US for example.

I strongly suspect that any dealer handling such mislabeled instruments

could be successfully prosecuted under the UCC. It's a shame. Some of the

top Chinese instruments are perfectly capable of standing on their own! If only

they would get pretty labels and sign their work.

This leaves the question of how to validate modern production-level "Italian"

instruments. I suppose that the appearance is a strong clue! I know I've seen

modern good Chinese instruments, but I've never seen a modern Italian instrument.

Experts! Where is thy wisdom for those of us in the hinterlands? I'm locked in the

land of flatpickers and steel violin strings.

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:

: : Not just cremona violin maker but elsewhere too like US for example.

: I strongly suspect that any dealer handling such mislabeled instruments

: could be successfully prosecuted under the UCC. It's a shame. Some of the

: top Chinese instruments are perfectly capable of standing on their own! If only

: they would get pretty labels and sign their work.

: This leaves the question of how to validate modern production-level "Italian"

: instruments. I suppose that the appearance is a strong clue! I know I've seen

: modern good Chinese instruments, but I've never seen a modern Italian instrument.

: Experts! Where is thy wisdom for those of us in the hinterlands? I'm locked in the

: land of flatpickers and steel violin strings.

After playing classical violin for 12 years and bluegrass for the past 6 months, I have to say that I really

prefer bluegrass. Jammin' at a good pickin' session with some really good pickers is so much more fun than any

experience that I ever had in my long years suffering within the rigid confines of the world of classical music,

which has strayed too far from its roots in traditional music.

Don't dismiss the musical skill of any pickers either, some of the most creative and talented violin players are

in the fiddle world. Bluegrass music is extraordinarily hard to play well.

PS--Although they don't sound very good, try a set of Heliocores one day, they are a blast to play on.

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Prosecution under the Uniform Commercial Code may not be an option. If this sort of thing IS happening, a US dealer could only be charged if he knew the instrument was purposely mis-labeled in order to perpetuate a fraud. If the Cremonese shop is selling them as thier own work, the US dealer would probably not be liable.

While I would not call myself and "expert," I would imagine that with a little close inspection of the finished product one would be able to pick out some of the frauds. I don't know about this particular instance but I have seen "white" fiddles that are basically like bridge blanks. You buy the pre-shaped wood, graduate it and then finish it. If the wood is of high quality and the maker/finisher is a good craftsman, might it not sound similar to one he started from scratch?

How much are these "fakes" selling for? Are people buying them for a few hundred dollars or a few thousand? I think that would make a difference in the depth of the fraud.

D

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Based on my recent readings, a dealer who holds himself out to public as a knowledgable figure in a field can be held liable to some extent when he should have known something was wrong. This seems like an instance of that. Certainly would put a dealer at risk to handle suspicious instruments.

There's lots of potential liability in selling instruments with labels! Fortunately, most buyers are knowledgable of violin labels to some extent. But think of the number of excited folks with their attic Strads. People in this country have been trained to trust and accept labels.

I have no idea what such things would sell for. Violins in Cremona probably start high! Who knows what someone would ask here. I'd be interested, too. Here things are pretty flexible.

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: After playing classical violin for 12 years and bluegrass for the past 6 months, I have to say that I really

: prefer bluegrass. Jammin' at a good pickin' session with some really good pickers is so much more fun than any

: experience that I ever had in my long years suffering within the rigid confines of the world of classical music,

: which has strayed too far from its roots in traditional music.

: Don't dismiss the musical skill of any pickers either, some of the most creative and talented violin players are

: in the fiddle world. Bluegrass music is extraordinarily hard to play well.

Of course good pick work is difficult. Steve Kaufman lives just down the road about 8 miles from me, and he is either

the best or one of the best (depends on who you talk to). I just get lonely too often and no really "expert" shops are

within reach. I actually play rather more "country" fiddle than classical at this point. I have a terminally inappropriate

attitude for classical music. I think it should be fun and refuse to let people continue suffering! I've fired the traditionalists.

They hate it when I whip through some Chopin in a "non-standard" manner, especially when the non-brainwasted like it better!

: PS--Although they don't sound very good, try a set of Heliocores one day, they are a blast to play on.

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:Dear Slandering Steve

Let me get this straight. We can slam some unknown makers in Europe and the US and sing the praises of poor underdog Chinese makers. That song is old and about to get beer bottles thrown at it. Though it does go along well with the approved recent listing here of a notorious URL. Please reconsider this track were on and derail it for the good of everyone. To get a clue, try and get a peek at a few really well made instruments, you may have to leave the hinterlands to do it. You may have to leave the country if your in China. Be sure and get back to the board with your findings. Inquiring minds want to know.

Raymond

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: 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.

This practice is highly common and has been going on between different countries probably for centuries now. My father while he was at violinmaking school in Mittenwald, Germany used to pack and ship white violins made by his instructor, Carl Sandner, to a now famous Italian maker, who shall remain nameless. The work by the trained eye is obviously German but to the untrained it looks like a nice Italian violin, (Too nice is the giveaway). Also the Chinese maker Sheng Xhong Xiu whom we know personally has been selling his violins in the white to the Italians for over 14 years. We just now convinced him to put his own label in his instruments and varnish them himself. He was scared of selling them under his own name for fear of stereotypes. Justifiably so.

There is an excellent book by Carla Shapiro called "Violin Fraud" which chronicles hundreds of cases of this and other dishonest practices along with current laws concerning the buying and selling of instruments. A must read for any buyer for sure.

News of the authenticity of the "Messiah" Strad is just about to come out which should send the violin world on it's ear. Can't tell you just yet though.

Needless to say it's a good day for those of you who have purchased your violin either from the maker himself or from a very reputable person. Always get as much documentation as possible.

Sorry to get off the original point. Some of the easier ways of telling a Chinese violin is the use of Mongolian or Chinese wood which on the maple at least looks very different from European and much different than American maple. Mongolian maple has small black "streaks", for lack of a better word, in the maple itself. It is usually very deeply flamed as well.

This gets difficult in that most people who are getting these white violins from cheap labor are simply sending them their own wood. Workmanship and style are the main giveaways in spotting most knock-offs.

The book "Violin Fraud mentions some, not all, of the people who were very well known for this type of action.

Best regard to you all,

Eric Benning

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Hello: I haven't read the tremendous response to your post, but we sell Chinese violins, Cremona Brand. They are clearly marked, "Made In China"...the price is only $244.00 for violin. case, fiberglass/horsehair bow, Dominant strings, Whittner tailpiece, hand fit bridge/post and a decent case.....

There is NO WAY to fake a Chinese violin as one made in Cremona, Italy....some one who is hoodwinked that easily should not be in the business, as a dealer, anyway. No fraud is intended...by the makers of the violin...I can't speak for those reselling them!

Regards,

Al Stancel

: 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.

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Hi Eric,

I agree that the book you mentioned is a good one to put on the "reading list" for those who are interested.

You opened the floor for the Hill's Strad, so.....

Concerning the "news" about the Messiah, my understanding is that the information is interesting and compelling, but not conclusive. There have been "theories" concerning this particular fiddle for generations. If Stuart publishes, it may be without the benefit of a "hands on" test, correct?

It seems to me that historical research and discovery is not new to this business. Family lines, birth dates, death dates, output, etc., are constantly changing. The research presently being conducted concerning the Cremonese makers of the second half of the 18th century and the Guadagnini family should (and has begun to) change our views. Doring's book on Guad and Hills "Strad" had "effect" when they were released. It seems to me that this "effect" has been mostly positive to the industry. Whatever the future decides for the Messiah, I hope we'll be on our feet, not our ears!

Best wishes.

Jeffrey

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: :Dear Slandering Steve

: Let me get this straight. We can slam some unknown makers in Europe and the US and sing the praises of poor underdog Chinese makers. That song is old and about to get beer bottles thrown at it. Though it does go along well with the approved recent listing here of a notorious URL. Please reconsider this track were on and derail it for the good of everyone. To get a clue, try and get a peek at a few really well made instruments, you may have to leave the hinterlands to do it. You may have to leave the country if your in China. Be sure and get back to the board with your findings. Inquiring minds want to know.

: Raymond

I'm not slamming or slandering anyone.

I called a rather well-known fellow about a

couple of violins I'd seen and a modern Italian

maker I wondered about and he (without prompting)

informed me of this "practice." Seemed somewhat

unusual to me, so I asked about it here, rather

than simply accept his statements out of hand.

If my readings of late are accurate (just

finished a nice little book "Violin Fraud"),

then there would indeed be a risk to a dealer

presenting his customers with violins from China

that bear a Cremona label. I'm not an expert on

violins, but I've seen some reasonably nice ones

and a couple of old Italian ones (with the papers

to back them up), but I've never seen any newer

Italian violins. I found the suddent unexpected

warning worth checking up on. I slander no one in

my posts!

Steve

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Some of the easier ways of telling a Chinese

violin is the use of Mongolian or Chinese wood

which on the maple at least looks very different

from European and much different than American

maple. Mongolian maple has small black "streaks",

for lack of a better word, in the maple itself.

It is usually very deeply flamed as well.

: This gets difficult in that most people

who are getting these white violins from cheap

labor are simply sending them their own wood.

Workmanship and style are the main giveaways in

spotting most knock-offs.

I'll drop by and check out a couple of nice Chinese

ones tomorrow. One of my friends has at least one

high-end Chinese violin. As I recall, the maple was

rather convoluted in pattern and rather pretty. A

rather wide flame. I'll look for streaks. As I recall,

the workmanship is excellent. Only German and French

violins for comparison at this point.

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Dear Steven

I'm glad to hear that is not your intent. But when you pass along second hand information and call it criminal activity without any facts or firm grasp of the situation you come dangerously close. Because it's not aimed at any one maker, just makers in general, kind of make things worse. For me it does, anyway. If you have good things to say about Chinese makers, fine. Give names and prices of these so we have an idea of what you speak. I don't think anyone should be left with the impression that they may buy a $300 or even $3000 Chinese factory violin and have it pass for something more to any but a casual observer.

I apologize for calling you a slanderer, it was a heated comment, uncalled for. Let us know what you find in your comparisons. It may help all of us.

Raymond

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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

anno 1998

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.

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How can't you argue with that. Your right!

You won't find much more satisfaction anywhere else.

Musicians sittin around picking along to a good

fiddle tune or mandolin run ,kick in the 5 string,

and a good flat top picker.

I realised I was in the right place when I read about

some guys sphynxter (on this b-board), tightening up playing classical

music. Too much disiplin there for me thanks. I prefer

to let that music roar thru me and I feel good all

over. Includin where I'm sittin...

Pikinandagrinnin.....

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I've seen good quality Chinese work like this post

describes.

: 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)

My concern was those labeled with a country of origin or with a known and real maker in a European city; primarily with violins that might be passed off as the product of specific master violin maker, rather than the shop violins.

: 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.

Certainly the few I've seen on the upper student end were excellent values. Really

nice craftsmanship and sometimes excellent scrolls. I have an EH Roth violin here in my

office and the scroll isn't a patch on some of the Chinese work. Varnish is rather cloudy

and way too red for my taste as well. I'm glad it isn't mine!

: 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.

I recognize the description of the sound. I'll really have

to try one out - I can probably borrow one for the

weekend. Next time I'm in DC or other big place I can

try a modern Italian violin.

: 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.

My buddy who sells these violins takes out the

labels right away, sets them up very very well,

and tells everyone where he was told they were

from. A good dealer, especially for a backwater

(Jon Goldstein in Oak Ridge, TN at String Workshop).

Makes me glad that I pretty much ignore the labels

in violins. While a bit off the subject of mislabeling,

would anyone have an idea of a place to get top-notch

Chinese violins that have been appropriately graduated

and set up? I wouldn't mind having a properly labeled

and signed violin from a top-notch Chinese maker.

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The British trade laws (the book you read is British) are much stricter than American ones, I believe. I don't even think it's strictly legal for them to sell an antique German instrument with its original "Stradivari" label, since it's not a Strad.

: If my readings of late are accurate (just

: finished a nice little book "Violin Fraud"),

: then there would indeed be a risk to a dealer

: presenting his customers with violins from China

: that bear a Cremona label.

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: : since when is an unused (or barely used) brain non-wasted?

: Confusion reigns supreme after reading your highly elucidating message.

: What are you talking about?

The following remark from the preceeding post

" They hate it when I whip through some Chopin in a "non-standard" manner, especially when the non-brainwasted like it better! "

Characterizing those who actually know the difference as "brain-wasted". Not having heard your non-standard performance I cannot offer my opinion as to whether it was good music or a travesty. And granted there are those who will reflexively bash anything that isn't just like the one they were taught to like. However, there is, was and ever will be a huge market for kitsch in all forms. To label those who understand the difference (and may yet prefer the real thing) as "brain-wasted" is at least as obnoxious as the snob attitudes attributed to classical devotees.

And for pikinandgrinnin

Doesn't this mass movement from classical to picking tell you that feats of O'Connor et al not withstanding that the entry standard for classcal is higher than for bluegrass etc. That is one must master more technique, know it better, and be able to apply it consistently at will just to get a basically acceptable, pleasing result. This is not to say that one kind of music is better than the other but lets get real about cold technical facts. And of course a non-classical player who has the skill to cut it the classical world will be at a tremendous advantage is his chosen realm as he will have the power to avoid the following:

The improvisor has the luxury of leaning on his best stuff and avoiding uncomfortable gaps his technique, the lessons that weren't learned for one reason or another. The classical player is expected to master the terrain as it is with few accomodations for technique. The repertoire is well known and merciless. Within that framework there is (or used to be) ample room for individuality (compare Kreisler and Heifetz) I am not criticizing anyone here for preferring what ever non classical style. Life is short take what you want and what you can. But please do not try to tell me that the average professional fiddler is anywhere near the average symphony player or soloist in cold hard technical skill. Resembles the difference between hard trail biking(good rolicking fun) and climbing mount Everest (exhaltation at the top, sacrifice the rest of time).

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Steve,

Last year, I traded in two old German commercial violins for a mint condition Chinese violin the dealer had taken in trade. It seems that the previous owner found the neck too thick. It had no label, and when I asked the dealer about the country of origin, he said it was probably Chinese but possibly finished someplace else. He pointed out the black lines in the maple that Eric says are typical of mongolian maple.

In the past 50 years, I have seen, collected and played some very fine, well made violins, so I am not easily impressed. But, I was impressed by the craftsmanship of this violin - especially the meticulous attention to detail that Rick mentioned. The purfling was perfect and the edges, button and scroll beautifully highlighted. The back was one piece and the maple used on the back, ribs and scroll was very highly flamed. The reddish brown varnish looked very attractive and carefully applied. I was impressed with the exquisite over-all beauty -- especially when compared with other high-end European products.

When I played it with dominant strings, I found the tone had a brilliant ringing quality but was a bit weak on the G string. I sent it to a well-known luthier who has been doing setup and repair work for me for years. He also praised the workmanship and said it was worth much more than what I paid for it. With a new bridge and soundpost, the violin sounds great now - very resonant and responsive on all the strings.

If you can find a similar Chinese violin in your travels, I think you too will be very pleased with so much quality for a modest investment.

JohnT

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Agreed,

"I", prefer the relaxed nature of the music that

I like to play and listen to. I have the utmost respect

for "any-one" who dedicates themselves to their craft.

I defend my choice in music all of the time, as my

kid does his when I cover my ears while he cranks

out an Arrowsmith rif on his electric guitar.

I do not agree that one style of music, musician

"studies" harder than the other. Using O'connor who

consistantly outperforms many as

an example, how can we compare who put more work

into their music than the other. He is also an accomplished

mandolin player and flat top picker. He is not the

exception. I've seen and heard others. A different

style of practise or study, but hard work all the same

pickinandagrinnin

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