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Beares has put 47 string instruments up for auction, (the first of its kind to have an eBay-style 'buy now' function) and we're wishing we had a spare $3.5m. Bidding closes on 28 October.
Students from the Royal Academy of Music play four 'Vuillaume' instruments due to be auctioned off by Beares next week. Julia (1st violin) plays the Vuillaume, after Stradivari, Paris, 1850 ($170k - $200k); Irma (2nd violin) plays the Vuillaume, after Guarneri, Paris, 1855, (£100k - £150k); Ugne (viola) plays the Vuillaume, Paris, c.1840-50 (£75k - £125k); and Tatiana (cello) plays the Vuillaume, Paris, 1858 (£240k - £275k). Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
The wealthy often buy wine, paintings - even old coins - as 'alternative' investments. Director of Beares, Simon Morris told us why he thinks string instruments could hold their own as investments: "As markets for string instruments expand in China, supply is diminishing as demand increases. So far, there has been no risk, because these investments have always performed well." Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
Students of the Royal Academy of Music look longingly at some of the violins due to be auctioned off. Would they be a safe investment? Simon Morris says: "The market for other works of art is driven by people wanting the object. Violins are tools of the trade, thus there is an actual need for them. This need drives the market and keeps it consistent." Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
A Strad alone might not be enough. If you're a dedicated violin collector, you'll want the full set. These are the four most valuable lots on auction - with an estimated worth between them of $6m. Now all you need is a Gesù. FYI: Beares set the world record for the most expensive Guarneri del Gesù violin ever sold, in excess of $16m, in 2013.
Superstar violinist Nigel Kennedy enthused about this Stradivarius, estimated to be sold for between $2.4m - $3.5m! Simon Morris put it succinctly: "What craftsman is as well known as Antonio Stradivarius? Nobody is."
It was the Guadagnini which really caught Nigel Kennedy's attention though. Gesticulating with the $1.5m antique in one hand, he said: "This one seems to have a real depth to the sound, which is unique in my experience... like, the lower region really strikes me... wonderful fiddle, yeah man!" Simon Morris told us this instrument "is a top drawer example, more likely to sell for a substantial price, possibly a world record".
Students from the Royal Academy of Music, get to play the instruments. He looks on adoringly... at the Vuillaume cello. It is estimated to fetch between £240-£275K. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
Are violins undervalued in comparison to works of art? Simon Morris says: "If you look at it, relatively obscure painters go for way more than a Strad, but everybody knows that Strad is recognised universally: a taxi driver in Sydney knows. String instruments have become really iconic works of art, recognised by everybody. You almost think, why isn't it worth more?" Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
Royal Academy of Music students Julia, Irma and Ugne tune up, ready to play some of the greatest string instruments in the world. The great maestro Toscanini looks on. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
There are violins, cellos and even bows on sale in this auction. It is thought that one bow, made by Nicolas Maline in c. 1850, will sell for up to £25k.
This Vuillaume cello has been made in the style of a Stradivarius. Margarita, a student from the RAM, marvels at the sound of an instrument as expensive as a studio flat in London. Decisions, decisions... Simon Morris said: "Musicians can't afford these things. The reality is an awful lot of them have patrons. The Beares International Violin Society aims to bring musicians and patrons together, in a symbiotic relationship." Photo: Benjamin Ealovega