Violins are brilliant instruments that can produce sublime music that is not easy to match. Each instrument has a unique backstory, and in terms of learning, it takes at least five years of regular practice to become a proficient violinist whose playing is easy on the ear.
In this article, we'll look at the most expensive violins in the world and how an instrument that usually costs a couple of hundred to a few thousand dollars could be worth more than a seashore mansion - well beyond the means of an amateur violinist.
Read on to find out everything you need to know from Ask Genie!
The Top 10 Most Expensive Violins In The World
Stradivarius is a name you'll see throughout this article. Stradivarius violins are among the world's best instruments built. They were crafted by an Italian family, Stradivari, headed by Antonio Stradivari.
This list also has a few Guarneri violins. These were made by an Italian family, often by Bartolomeo Giuseppe "del Gesù" Guarneri. While some would argue that the Stradivarius violins are superior, others would say that Guarneri is equal, if not superior, to them. This is evident considering how much people are willing to pay.
10. Ex-Szigeti Stradivarius: The Ludwig
This violin bears the inscription: "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1724," indicating that it was made in Cremona by Antonio Stradivarius. This increases its rarity and value, as Antonio himself made the instrument.
Many famous violinists have owned it, including Joseph and Deszgo Szigeti (hence "Ex-Szigeti") and German violinist Joseph Ludwig ("The Ludwig").
But how much does a piece like this cost? Well, it's currently valued at a whopping $6,000,000.
9. Dolphin Stradivarius
Designed in 1714, another of Antonio Stradivarius' magnificent instruments, the Dolphin takes its name from its unique design. In the late 19th century George Hart, a previous owner, found that its appearance was reminiscent of that of a dolphin.
It has had several owners, including child virtuosa and violinist Jascha Heifetz. It is currently owned by The Nippon Music Foundation, an organization founded to promote the music culture in Japan.
Japanese violinist Akiko Suwanai currently has the right to use it during performances. It is currently valued at $6,000,000.
8. Lord Wilton Guarnerius
This was crafted by Guarneri del Gesu and is one of his most expensive violins. It was designed and crafted in Cremona, an Italian city famous for its violins and those who made them. "Lord Wilton" is named after Seymore Egerton, the Earl of Wilton.
Before its current owner, collector David L. Fulton, the instrument was owned by Yehudi Menuhin, an American-born professional violinist. After his passing, the violin was sold for an astounding $6,000,000.
7. Ex-Kochanski Guarnerius
The Ex-Kochanski Guarneri is yet another of Giuseppe's creations and among the most expensive of them all. This 1741 instrument was owned by and named after Paul Kochanski, a Polish violinist and composer who devoted his life to violin playing. This particular violin boasts a deep red varnish and has been meticulously maintained.
Aaron Rosand was its keeper for many decades and spent ten years paying off the loan he took out to buy the instrument. Although reluctantly, the musician, knowing his performing days were over, sold his precious violin in a 2009 auction for $10,000,000.
6. Mary Portman Guarnerius
Although we can say little about the early origins of this violin, the instrument is now well-known as one of the most expensive violins in the world. After belonging to famous Austrian composer and violin master Fritz Kreisler, the instrument would soon be owned by Mary Portman (hence its name).
Mary Isabel Portman, known as the builder of Kranzbach Castle, was an affluent aristocrat and lover of the violin. The violin remained hers for a long time. However, following her ownership, it would change hands several times.
It can be loaned through the Stradivari Society of Chicago and holds a value of $10,000,000. That's quite an expensive instrument to lend!
5. Carrodus Guarnerius
With extra fine craftmanship, this violin has met many enthusiastic violinists before becoming known in history with Viennese violinist Eller. After this, David Laurie, a Scottish dealer, purchased this piece, which he would later sell to an amateur player.
It'd be passed on several times until being owned by world-renowned English violinist John Carrodus, who it'd be named after. Following his death in 1895, the violin passed through many hands, including those of Austrian classical violinist Ossy Renardy.
It's now owned by an anonymous wealthy individual who has lent it to world-renown Australian violinist Richard Tognetti. Right now, this piece is worth $10,000,000.
4. Da Vinci ex-Seidel Stardivarius
Designed and crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1714, this instrument is highly revered and found its name about a century ago. Owner of the auction house Caressa & Francais "baptized" this piece with the name of Leonardo de Vici. It owes the second part of its name to its previous owner, Toscha Seidel, a Russian violin virtuoso.
The owner had many good words to say about the instrument. When queried on it, he stated it's "one of the finest examples of the famous violin maker." Toscha spent much time with the violin, performing in orchestra and making many records.
He even played music for films. He's why we associate strong emotions with the sound of the violin. His career stretched beyond this, giving personal violin lessons to Albert Einstein in the 1930s.
Fast forward a few decades, and the instrument was sold by the London auction house Tarusio for $15,340,000, up from a reserve price of $ 8,000,000.
3. Lady Blunt Stradivarius
Among the top three most expensive violins in the world and the second most expensive violin by Antonio, the Lady Blunt is treasured because of its rich history and how well it has been maintained over the centuries since its crafting in 1721.
For example, it still has many features of the original craftsmanship of Antonio Stradivari, such as tool marks and varnish. It's been through many collectors since being sold by Lady Anne Blunt in 1895, all of who have seemingly taken great care to protect it.
Lady Anne Blunt kept the violin for 31 years after purchasing it from Jean Baptist Vuillaume in Paris, France, in 1864. And back in 2011, the piece was sold to a private buyer through Tarusio Auctions for an astounding $15,900,000.
All the proceeds went to victims of the Tōhoku tsunami and earthquake that severely affected Japan.
2. Vieuxtemps Guarnerius
At 273 years old, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin has survived many decades and has formed part of the history of violin music. It has been played by many world-renown and well-regarded violinists such as Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman.
However, it received much acclaim after being bought by Henri Vieuxtemps, a famous Belgian violinist. He holds a place in the books as a significant part of Franco-Belgian violin history.
For a piece nearly three centuries old, it's been immaculately maintained, with little to no work done on it over time. It eventually found a home, where it'll reside into the near future, with professional violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.
Although not owned by the violinist, it has been loaned to her for the remainder of her lifetime. It's officially owned by a private buyer, who bought it for a value, though undisclosed, of upwards of $16,000,000.
1. Messiah Stradivarius
Appropriately named, The Messiah violin is the most expensive violin in the entire world. It was crafted by Antonion Stradivari in 1716 during his peak years but has hardly been played in the three centuries of its existence - partly how it has maintained its value. The instrument is considered to be almost "as good as new," although musical instruments typically appreciate with age and use.
Made from spruce and maple wood, The Messiah is incredibly finely crafted and in absolutely brilliant condition. Aside from a few modifications, it's in nearly the same condition as when Stradivari made it.
The instrument remained in his workshop until his passing in 1737, after which it was sold to Count Cozio di Salbue and kept the name Salabue. After a few more owners, it found its way to the W.E. Hill family, who gave it to a museum.
The Messiah Stradivarius has not been bought or sold since being given to Oxford's Ashmolean Museum in the second half of the 20th century. It remains on display and is valued at $ 20,000,000.
Also known as luthiers, the violin maker profession has existed for over five centuries. And while professionals like Antonio Stradivari and Bartolomeo Guarneri "del Gesù" have set the bar for this profession at a new level, they're not the only ones.
These noteworthy mentions and the violins they made echo tunes of great success centuries later.
Nicolò Amati & his 1669 maple-and-spruce violin
Valued at $2,000,000, this 1669 violin is highly sought after, and professionals say it still plays over three centuries later. Interestingly, Nicolò Amati is from the same town in Cremona, Italy - home to Antonio and Giuseppe.
Some of his other pieces also go for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Carlo Bergonzi & his million-dollar violin
Italian luthier Carlo Bergonzi was the first in his family who'd become known as a highly-distinguished group of luthiers. His instruments are highly sought after, and his violins are considered some of the finest in the world.
It's no wonder a buyer was willing to pay $1,001,384 for one of his instruments.
Francesco Ruggieri's Comeback
Although Amati's skill kept competitors such as Ruggieri at bay during his time, nowadays, people are willing to pay quite a bit for his work. Some of Francesco Ruggieri's violins are estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and one of his violins was sold for $226,000. It's clear that he produced quality, recognized even today.
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Who made the most expensive violin in the world?
The Messiah Stradivarius, valued at $20,000,000, the most expensive antique violin on earth, was built by Antonio Stradivari. He made over one thousand instruments as a craftsman, most of which were violins. His instruments are considered some of the best in the world.
Who owns a real Stradivarius violin?
Violinist Joshua Bell owns a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin designed in 1713 called the Gibson ex Huberman. Additionally, virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn owns a 1720 Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, known as The Red Violin. The violins are owned by several collectors and musicians.
Who owns the most expensive violin?
Sold for $16,000,000, Anne Akiko Meyers officially owns the most expensive violin in the world. The Vieuxtemps, built by Guarneri del Gesù, was named after famous Belgian violinist and composer Henri François Joseph Vieuxtemps.
How many Stradivarius violins are left?
There are an estimated 650 Stradivarius violins left from the 960 made by Antonio Stradivari, although only 200 have been accounted for. Built with mineral-infused maple wood, these violins are incredibly hard to replicate.
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