A violin is a pristine instrument that produces unmatchable music when played by the right musician. One of the most poignant things about violins is how each instrument has its own unique back story.
Each well-known violin has a tale to tell about its craftsmanship and design. Not only that, but the most distinguished instruments have been handled and played by notable virtuosos and maestros.
Some of the violins in the following list are still kept carefully preserved, while others are being played by various renown violinists. Additionally, all the violins in the list are known for their make, material and rarity.
Keep reading to find some unique stories about the top 10 most expensive violins in the world!
#10 The Ex-Szigeti Stradivari – $6 million
The Ex-Szigeti Stradivari violin is also known by the name ‘Ludwig.’ It was crafted by Stradivarius in 1724 and has an inscription etched into it. The inscription reads, “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat Anno 1724.”
The intricately crafted instrument is known far and wide for its polished sheen and finesse. The Ex-Szigeti Stradivari has been played by various violinists throughout the years. It was last bought by L- Bank Baden Wurttemberg in 1989.
#9 The Dolphin Stradivari – $6 million
The Dolphin Stradivari was brought to life in 1714 by Stradivari. It was named after the animal after its 19th century owner, George Hart, said that its appearance, make, shape and color made him think of a dolphin.
The instrument is currently on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation. It is being played by violinist Akiko Suwanai. This delicate instrument needs a lot of thorough maintenance, needing frequent polishes and touch-ups.
#8 The La Pucelle Stradivari – $6 million
Also known as ‘The Virgin,’ this violin was created in 1709 by Stradivari. It got its name from Jean-Baptiste Vuilaume, a luthier, who found it to be untouched after it was crafted. Vullaume added the iconic tailpiece to this instrument, carving Joan of Arc into the intricate design. He also added neatly carved pegs to the violin. It’s currently owned by collector David L Fulton in his private collection.
#7 The Lord Wilton – $6 million
Guarneri del Gesu put together this stunning violin in 1742 in Cremona. It was named after Seymour Egerton, the fourth Earl of Wilton. Egerton owned this violin through most of the 19th century.
#6 The Mary Portman – $10 million
Crafted by renown violin maker Guarneri del Gesu, the Mary Portman was created in 1735 and boasts excellent craftsmanship. It gets its unique name from the Honorable Mary Isabel Portman, an Englishwoman who built the Kranzbacj Castle. The instrument is currently on loan from the Stradivari Society and is being used by violinist Francisco Fullana.
#5 The Ex-Kochanski Guarneri – $10 million
This fine instrument was created in 1741 by Guarneri del Gesu. It features a deep red varnish and is known as one of Guarneri’s best creations. It’s named after Polish violinist Paul Kochanski, who owned it for quite a while. It was later owned by American violinist Aaron Rosand, who used it for around 40 years. The violin was sold in 2009 to a Russian collector and remains preserved to this day.
#4 The Carrodus Guarneri – $10 million
The Carrodus Guarneri is an example of Guarneri del Gesu’s best work. It was made in 1743 and boasts extra fine craftsmanship and details. What’s known of its lustrous history starts with a Viennese violinist named Eller. He owned the instrument until it was bought by Scottish dealer Davlid Laurie in the 19th century. Laurie sold it on to an amateur played called C G Meier, who further passed it on to W E Hill. Following the chain, renown English violinist, John Carrodus, bought the instrument and kept it with him until he died in 1895.
The violin made its way back to the Hill Shop after Carrodus’ death and was then bought by Major Philips. It passed onto Felix Landau in 1909, later making its way to America where it was kept by Ossy Renardy until he died in 1955. It was kept with the Hottinger and Engleman collections and is now owned by a discrete yet wealthy patron who bought it for Australian violinist Richard Tognetti. Tognetti directs the Australian Chamber Orchestra and uses this intricate instrument to this day.
#3 The Lady Blunt – $15.9 million
The Lady Blunt is a Stradivarius violin made in 1721 by the renowned Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari. The Lady Blunt was more recently sold to the Nippon Foundation for another record price of $15.9 million, ranking third in the world’s most expensive violins list. All proceeds went to benefit the victims of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake.
This gorgeous violin has an interesting origin story. It was owned by Lord Byron’s granddaughter and was, in fact, named after her. The Lady Blunt is only one of two well-preserved Stradivarius violins that exist today. This is because violin collectors don’t play these instruments. Rather, they store and preserve their original condition.
#2 The Vieuxtemps Guarneri – $16 million
This Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin is estimated to be 273 years old, making it older than the United States of America. It sold for a whopping $16 million, making it the second most expensive violin in the world. All the money was donated to the violinist Anne Akiko Meyers for her lifetime.
Meyers has said that she experienced amazing chemistry with the instrument. This isn’t surprising, given that it was previously owned by Belgian virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps who wanted to be buried with it after he died.
#1 The Messiah Stradivarius – $20 million
This 1716 creation was crafted by Antonio Stradivari, known as the best violin maker in the world. He brought this violin together during his peak years and the uniqueness of this time period made it the most expensive violin in the world.
The Messiah Stradivarius has not been played on account of its high value, though violinists such as Jean-Delphin Alard and Joseph Joachim have tried. The exquisite instrument is currently on display at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England and remains preserved.