Cremona's Violin-Makers Threatened by Low-Cost Competition and Counterfeits

Classic Arts News   Cremona's Violin-Makers Threatened by Low-Cost Competition and Counterfeits
Like industries everywhere, Italy's luthiers are feeling the crunch from globalization.

Reuters News Agency reports that cheap imports from Asia and outright counterfeits are damaging the high reputation of the traditional instrument makers of Cremona — home of the legendary Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati houses and to this day a source of top-quality violins, violas and cellos — in the same way they are threatening other Italian craftsmen. In almost any major city worldwide, after all, stalls selling cheap counterfeit designer watches, bags and sunglasses are now ubiquitous.

"Cremona is still the world's capital of violin-making. You can sense it by wandering through its old, cobbled streets and by peeking into its many workshops," Gian Domenico Auricchio, head of Cremona's consortium of violin-makers, told Reuters. "But counterfeiting has now reached the violin-making sector and the damage to our image is big."

The genuine instruments fetch huge sums; the $3.544 million sale in May of a 1707 Stradivarius set an auction record for the sale of any kind of instrument, surpassing the previous record of $2 million. Another Stradivarius, called "The Lady Tennant," sold at Christie's in April 2005 for $2.032 million.

Asian violins, however, cost just a few hundred euros. Still, Auricchio told Reuters, counterfeiting is a bigger threat than cheap imports. "The vast majority of counterfeit violins comes from the Far East," he said. "The 'victims' are usually inexperienced musicians and students who learn to play on instruments that don't have the necessary quality requirements."

The Italian town of Cremona, on the banks of the Po River, was home, between the 16th and 18th centuries, to the world's finest violin makers. Andrea Amati, who made a violin for French King Charles IX in 1566, created the design of the modern violin there; he was followed in the next century by such violin-makers as Antonio Stradivari and Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri del Ges‹.

While Cremona's master craftsmen today only produce a dozen or so top-quality instruments each year, factories such as Pearl River in China produce 6,000 violins per month, according to the company's website.

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