Cremonese varnish: Shining example

Cremonese varnish sample Stradavari

A close look into the history and chemistry of varnish making can shed new light on the mysteries of classic Cremonese varnish, as Joe Robson explains, in this lutherie feature from November 2007

There is a genuine, well-deserved mystery surrounding the making of a violin. The combination of materials, from the wood to the strings, fittings and varnish, as well as the interaction of the luthier with these materials, is – to say the least – complex. Likewise, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding violin varnish itself. Classic Cremonese varnish in particular has a warmth of colour, a liveliness of reflection, a clarity and a longevity which have made it the pinnacle of violin coatings. Yet whether or not we ever unlock the secrets of the great Cremonese violin varnish, there should be no mystery about varnish itself, its uses and its origins.

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