Antonio Stadivari is a legendary Italian stringed instrument manufacturer who lived between 1644 and 1737. He is most famous for his violins, although he also made cellos, harps and guitars. He revolutionised the design of violins to make the sound louder, clearer and purer than any manufacturer before him. This has led to many top makers copying his basic design. Real Strad violins are worth a small fortune, but as the design has been copied and people have made forgeries, the real ones are getting harder to identify.
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Check the label inside the violin. This is not always an accurate gauge, but can be useful. Genuine labels will carry a Latin inscription "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno" followed by the date. These labels are not hard to copy so it is far from conclusive proof.
Hire an appraiser to check the violin for you. Forgers get small things wrong when making Stradivarius instruments that only a professional could spot. This will cost you some money, but if you have a genuine article it will be worth it.
Appreciate that the Stadivari design has been copied by almost every violin manufacturer since. This mean the shape means pretty much nothing.
Compare your violin to several others. Stadivari treated his violins with several unique dyes and stains which can be identified under close inspection.
Visit the Smithsonian Institute or the Library of Congress. They have some of the best materials available for identifying a Stradivarius, as well as several originals.
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