Chemically treated wood that enhanced the sound of the instrument may have been used in violins made by the Italian masters Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu.
Tests of maple wood shavings from instruments made by the craftsmen in the 18th century show differences from other violins that probably originated from wood preservation methods affecting their mechanical and acoustical properties.
“Our results indicate that the wood used by the masters could indeed have been chemically treated, a technique that may inspire an approach to violin making that is more chemically based,” Joseph Nagyvary, of Texas A&M University in the United States, said in a study published this week in the journal Nature.
Musicians prize instruments made by Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, which are among the most expensive in the world.
Nagyvary and his colleagues used techniques including magnetic resonance and infrared spectroscopy to analyze the wood taken from inside five of the instruments during repairs.
But they found no evidence of any chemical treatments in instruments made in Paris and London at the same time, or in more recent woods from central Europe and Bosnia.