How Can A Piece of Wood Cost $45 Million Dollars? Behind The Price of A New Violin
How Can A Piece of Wood Cost $45 Million Dollars?
Behind The Price of A New Violin
Stradivarius violins are one of the most sought after objects ever sold in auction, and currently holds the record for the most expensive instrument bought.
There are several reasons Stradivari and other reputable luthiers' yield such a hefty price tag.
- They sound quite nice.
- A respected dude from the 1700s made the instruments, representing the absolute in craftsmanship and art.
- Only a handful exist on this planet.
- There are some wealthy collectors and museums that have some money to spend.
What About a New Violin?
A new violin may cost as little as $100 or well-over $30,000; it doesn’t even have to tote a notable history. There’s one significant factor that determines the price of an expensive violin — it's what they think it’s worth.
Here is the real list of what is factored into the price of a good quality violin minus the superfluous and intangible value cost.
- Number of people working on the instrument
- Quality of the wood
- Age of the wood
- Quality of the workmanship
- Quality and level of detail in varnish, antiquing, and embellishments
- Quality of the sound
The biggest influence on the cost of an instrument is where in the world it’s made. This is why almost all violins are made in China vs. Europe or the U.S. The quality is simply better for less. Be sure to read our article on “Why Chinese instruments Are Better.”
Lower cost violins are made in a similar fashion as a car. The assembly line method applied to manufacturing violins allows for more affordable pricing; usually, only one for building the violin, whether it's cutting and carving wood, varnish work, assembly of parts, etc…
One master luthier makes our Holstein Benchmade violins. This is without a doubt the most prestigious and skillful method of creating a violin. The luthier handles all aspects of the carving , building, and finishing process. Varnish work alone can take decades to master as a skill. This is the very method Stradivari used to build his violins — solo, one at a time.
What Makes Good Wood for Instruments?
The cost of raw materials will always be a large factor in the price, and in this case, it is wood. Workshops will bid or buy a bulk order of wood from various parts of the world , mainly China or Europe. Contrary to common belief, European sourced woods are not always better.
A violin is composed of maple for the back and sides and a spruce top.
Tightness of wood grains generally equates to better sound quality, loudness, strength, and resonance.
It's free from imperfections (i.e. knots ).
A very important factor is the Visual Depth of the grain in the maple which yields more striking appearance called "figuring", resembling a fire or quilted effect in the wood.
Workshop will store and air dry the wood to improve sound and eliminate moisture, resin, and sucrose compounds in wood for over five years -- sometimes up to 20 years or more. Artificial heat drying can over-stress the wood.
Most of us will never lay hands on anything that yields a million-dollar price tag. These rare pieces of history are in the care of museums, collectors, and the lucky and skilled players that serve merely as conduits of sound for these amazing instruments.
The good news is that the world is smaller. Builders in China have unveiled and adopted the secret craft and ingenuity of the famous European makers. Anyone can now own a brand new instrument that looks, feels, and sounds simply exceptional -- without the 45-million dollars tacked on.