There are only 600 left in the entire world and each of them costs 5 million $. Their divine, impossible-to-reproduce sound fascinated generations of kings, noblemen, artists…and scientists, thus becoming one of the greatest musical mysteries in the world.

But apparently we should not be afraid of losing the delightful sounds of a Stradivarius or Guarnieri violin once the last of them will have lost the battle with time, or at least this is what Joseph Nagyvary, a Texas A&M University professor says. And he’s been working on this project for the last 33 years, so we have every reason to believe him!

Nagyvary believes that the instruments’ uniqueness is not only given by the chosen type of wood or the way they were made, but also by the chemicals used on them. Together with Renald Guillemette, director of the electron microprobe laboratory in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Clifford Spiegelman, professor of statistics, the researcher managed to prove his theory through experiments and studies.

Getting the necessary samples was not at all a piece of cake and Nagyvary had to practice on his begging skills. However, it worked and the tests he took showed that the wood had been brutally treated with chemicals that could not be identified at that moment. Further tests brought more light on the subject: borax, fluorides, chromium and iron salts, all these had been used. Their main purpose, especially the borax’s was to preserve the wood and keep worms from enjoying a Stradivarius in a more non-musical way.

A native from Hungary, Nagyvary learnt to play the violin by using one that had belonged to Albert Einstein, a well-known music-enthusiast. Fascinated by Antonio Stradivari’s personality and skills he embarked on this journey to find answers. Without too much education or special training, the artist made maybe the best violins in the world, which he sold to the rich and famous of that time, the royalties. Guarneri del Gesu, on the other hand, had a tough time selling his instruments even though now they are just as appreciated and expensive as Stradivari’s creations.

Of course, finding out the truth in this case and unveiling the mystery which has surrounded the magnificent violins for hundreds of years was worth the effort. However, making it public may not be just as simple as using science to bring out the secrets of the masters is never an easy thing. But this piece of news will definitely be of great interest for both historians and violin manufacturers as it will allow them to create similar instruments.
source: Texas A&M University

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