Slew of 'fake' bows for auction

January 16, 2007 at 10:01 PM · As a relative newcomer to playing I've gradually acquired violins (as we all do) that can take advantage of progressively improving technique. One area that I've neglected up till now is that of getting myself a decent bow. After a little research it is evident that this too can be an expensive business . . . however - looking for the least expensive option - I see that there are innumerable opportunities on auction sites to acquire bows from highly respected makers like Lamy, Bazin and Clasquin etc. for $100-150 . . . I might have expected ten times that figure! - what's going on there then? These bows look to me like the half decent student variety and all seem to have the all important stamped name above the frog . . . anyone come across this phenomenon? . . . how can I determine whether they are being offered as the genuine article? (anyone know of a decent handbook)?


Replies (28)

January 16, 2007 at 10:08 PM ·

January 23, 2007 at 05:51 PM · The best handbooks for bows actually cost more than most bows. The L'Archet group of books is by far the best on French bow makers and the Deutche Bogenmacher books for German makers.

Typically the best auction price for a Silver "factory" French bow (Laberte, Morizot-frere, etc.) is between $1500 to $4000. This varies depending on the quality of the bow, the stamp (many French makers put a shop or school stamp on their bows for certain customers), and whether papers are available for the bow (although some papers......but that's for another post).

Sadly some bow manufacturers in China as well as Eastern Europe have been stamping bows with French makers names. Most large shops have a bow person available who can explain how to spot an authentic French bow. As to authenticating the actual maker, that becomes more tricky and I only know 6-8 people in the US that I would feel comfortable with their opinion. Even I recently had a bow I was convinced was a Morizot (frere), but after taking it one of the 6, I was shown that it was a Laberte and why.

January 23, 2007 at 08:43 PM · I was going to purchase one of these from the seller sunshine...girl

but after reading this, I don't think I want to shell out $100 for something "fake"

she manage to sell a lot of them for about $100-$200 where the "real" kinda cost anywhere from $1k-$25k

I'll just go to my local violin shop and get one where I can try it on my violin. well thanks for the help =)

January 23, 2007 at 08:57 PM · A simple way to tell about a bow (if the pictures are good enough, that is) is to look carefully at the stamp. If the lettering looks like it was cut with a laser, with sharp serifs and a deep stamping, then it's probably new, and almost certainly Chinese.

The other way, of course, is by price. You get what you pay for, and any seller worth their salt will know what the bow is. They won't let a Morizot or Bazin go for a few hundred dollars when they know that they're worth a few thousand.

On a different note about auction sites in general -- personally, I would never buy a bow, whether for $100 or $10,000 or anywhere in between, without trying it first. There's no reason to lay down money for something when you don't know how it plays or responds to your hand.

January 24, 2007 at 07:09 AM · the stamp on those bows look pretty good, i don't htink it was lazer. one bow went for $300+! yikes! I'm glad I didn't bid on it. i wouldn't have that kinda money to blow on something that is probably fake.

January 25, 2007 at 02:34 AM · You can't assume a bow is genuine if the stamp is rounded & soft, or a little "off." Plenty of forgers simply have branding irons made, then they french-polish over the stamp. Some even get the little "quirks" right that you see in the originals.

All a forger has to do is get such a brander, buy a bunch of old pernabuco bows from some retired luthier or a school dept that closed (you see such things all the time on Ebay) learn how to french polish, and that's it. Simple.

At least faking labels requires a modicum of skill.

Even in high-end bows, it would be absurd to think that "perfect" forgeries don't exist, ones that fool the experts. Heck, forged DaVincies & Van Gohs have hung in museums for years, this is well documented.

IMO, it's best to buy a bow based on how it sounds & performs, and that's it.

January 25, 2007 at 02:55 AM · "Even in high-end bows, it would be absurd to think that "perfect" forgeries don't exist, ones that fool the experts. Heck, forged DaVincies & Van Gohs have hung in museums for years, this is well documented."

Well said, Allan. It's certainly easier to make a forgery of a bow than an instrument, anyway, simply because there's less for the eye to pick up.

That being said, I have seen more than one great bow expert make the distinction between an authentic bow and an excellent forgery (one that would certainly have fooled me and my marginally practiced eye), and had the minute differences explained to me. So the truly knowledgable among us are harder to beat than you might think. The problem lies in the fact that the forgery doesn't have to fool them; it only really has to fool you and me.

January 25, 2007 at 07:42 AM · a side question: what should I look for when I play a new bow w/ my violin? what else should I look for? balance/weight/etc?

I'm new to this site so... how do i start a new discussion? i submit one "article" but didn't see it show up.

January 25, 2007 at 04:08 PM · When someone is picking a new bow I always recommend they follow the following procedure.

1) Bring your instrument, bows play differnetly on different instruments so one that sounds great on the shop instrument may not sound great on yours; 2) Play it yourself, this may seem obvious, but some people feel self concious playing in front of other people in the shop, especially if they are a novice player. Your playing style, even if you are inexperienced and will be (hopefully) improving, and the pieces you typically play, will be different than the person trying out the bow in the shop; 3) Try a variety of styles, especially pieces that require long bow strokes (to tell if the bow keeps it's sound from end to end), and pieces that require staccato (to tell if the bow bounces enough but not too much). Also try playing the same piece(s) with each bow, that way you get a better comparison. 4) Try bows from a variety of price points, even ones above your budget. If you find the "perfect" bow, but it's too pricey for your budget, have the shop owner/salesperson help you to find a bow as close as possible to the bow you like, but in your price range (it also gives you something to save for/look forward to down the road). In this way, you also can get an idea of what features a better quality bow has or brings out in your instrument, good knowledge for any player from a beginner to a professional.

Weight, balance, camber,and resonance are also important in a good bow. Weight should be between 59 and 63 grams, but each player has his/her own preference. Typically balance points should be between 9 1/2" and 9 7/8" measuring from the bottom of the button to the balance point. Also with the bow tightened normally for playing, slightly tap the bow onto the knuckle of your left hand index finger. With the pinkie of your right hand off of the button you should feel the vibration all the way down the bow. Less vibration (usually) can mean less resonance in the bow. (I call this the Salchow test because the person who taught it to me learned it from William Salchow).

Hope this helps.

January 25, 2007 at 04:27 PM · great! thank you so much Angelo. hopefully I will be able to pick one out today!

January 26, 2007 at 06:56 AM · what does everyone think about this violin?

he up the price by $200 after he did some researchs. I can stop by his house and play it but I have no idea what to look for. hopefully the violin will not sell and I can have it for $400, if it's even worth that much. time to do my own research but any help anyone can offer will be great! thank you so much.

May 29, 2007 at 04:56 PM · In my experience it is the higher price range bows that are more often forgeries. Makers such as Ouchard, Voirin, Fetique and Peccatte. The old French mid priced bows can be very good value for money and are usually genuine. No one is going to bother to fake a J.T.L. bow or L.Morizot for example. For most people the confusion arises because of the stamp.

I would not be exaggerating if I said that for every one bow made by A.Thomassin and stamped with his name "Thomassin a Paris" there are numerous bows also made by himself and his assistants that were sold to dealers and are stamped with their names: John & Arthur Beare, Gustave Bernardel, Leon Bernardel, Caressa & Francais, Gand et Bernardel freres, Albert Jaquot, Paul Jombar, Emile Laurent, Emile L.Humbert and more. As you can see from the above example it can be quite confusing. Charles Nicolas Bazin is another example who made excellent bows that were supplied to over 30 dealers and violin makers, all of whom stamped their own names on the bows. Many other bow makers did the same.

The case of the Jerome Thibouville-Lamy is a little different, they did buy many bows from the Bazin workshops

(some stamped J.Lamy) but they also had their own makers and produced a range of qualities stamped variously, Grandini, Buthod, Duchene, Lupot, Vidoudez and several others.

Some very good examples of the mid range bows can be seen here:

Mid Range Bows



May 29, 2007 at 07:15 PM · Let's consider some basic factors.

1) Good bows are not made in the third world, they are made by people in the "western" countries.

2) A good bow requires good wood. Good wood is scarce, and demand for it high. Common sense should tell you the price will be high.

3) This is now 2007, and in the western countries, cost of living is high and rising.

4) A good bow requires skill and painstaking work, requiring weeks of work to get the bow just right. Time means money.

5) A good bow will always be in high demand. Tell me any player would not love to have a better bow, or many of them? Even when people do not play well, they collect, thereby increasing scarcity.

6) People advertise on the net to sell things. When you search, you are the target, not the other way round.

7) China has 10 million violin students. Each needs a bow. All want a wood bow. Do you think there is enough Pernambuco to go around? None will use a CF bow - CF is for export.

Now, do you think makers and dealers are so ignorant to let good bows sell cheaply?

Don't you think the cost of wood and a craftsman's time must be more than a few hundred dollars?

Do you really, honestly believe you can buy even a pernambuco bow for $100? or a mediocre violin for $1000? Do you not suspect such items may be mass produced? Even in China, costs are rising and scarcity is a factor, so a truly decent bow is well over $1000, and a truly decent violin is well over $4000 - and even these would not be accepted by a pro. I know many pros in China, and NONE use Chinese bows or violins (not even serious students use such). So, good luck to you in your search for the steal of the century, for indeed you may need to steal. Meanwhile, let your common sense prevail, and caveat emptor. A fool and his money are easily parted.

May 30, 2007 at 01:49 AM · > so a truly decent bow is well over $1000

> and a truly decent violin is well over $4000

> and even these would not be accepted by a pro.

I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree.

The bowmakers of Arcos Brasil output pernambuco bows of exceptional quality (and playability), with the nickel-silver mounted versions costing as little as $400-$500. While I prefer my Ouchard most of the time, the Arcos Brasil bows hold their own in many respects, and many of my colleagues and students use them (and I have several that I favor for specific ensembles/repertoire).

As for instruments, I guess we'd have to tussle over what a person means by "decent." I have a student playing her university symphony on a $500 workshop fiddle (with an excellent setup though, bridge, post, etc.). People are always surprised..."that sounds really nice, what kind of instrument and bow are you using?" We have a luthier out here who recently emigrated from China who puts out individually-made instruments of superb playability for well under four thousand dollars, that have found their way into the hands of professional performers and teachers all around the region.

A professional will pick up the cheapest violin and cheapest bow, and still make music on it. It all comes down to what works well, what is available, and what one can afford. We would be quite ignorant to shun all the bows and instruments under the dollar amounts you cite as the measuring stick for "decent."

> None will use a CF bow

> CF is for export.

So they'd prefer to use a bow made from a poor-quality pernambuco source (or other brazilwoods) than a superior carbon fiber stick in the same price range?

May 30, 2007 at 04:36 AM · Gene,

the bows you are refering to are good in that price range (for intermediate players), but sorry, one cannot compare them to the list of the master makers (which i have listed in previous discussions).

The current one is

Some of the Brazilian Makers have studied with Pierre Guillaume, and his influence is noticeable (which is a great thing).

A great bow feels like an extension of your arm, it can also take you to new heights where you never thought you could be in cantilena playing as well as virtuoso playing (with all the many intricate variety of bowings including bounced and ricochet bowings etc.).

A good instrument matched with a superb bow, will double the pleasure of playing and make the instrument sound at least 70% better than it would with a mediocre bow.

The superior bow will enhance the sound characteristics of your instrument.

That is why most players are always hunting for good/great bows.

As far as the "fakes" on Ebay (that you mentioned, I agree with what has been said already. They are Chinese.

The list of previous discussions about bows:

1. "Shopping for contemporary bow-Can anyone give me a suggestion of contemporary bows I can purchase for $3000-4000?” (6/17/2005)

2. "I'm looking around for a new violin bow, and am thinking of commissioning one from a modern maker." (8/14/2005)

3. “Contemporary bow makers-Who are some of the best contemporary bow makers and how much do their bows cost?” (6/4/2006)

4. “Looking for a great modern bow-Does anyone have any experience with great modern bows? Has anyone played some of the makers that I want to look into?” (2/27/2007)

May 30, 2007 at 06:19 PM · > the bows you are refering to are good in that

> price range (for intermediate players), but

> sorry, one cannot compare them to the list of

> the master makers (which i have listed in

> previous discussions).

Well, none of us is attempting to compare a $500 bow to a Peccatte or a Sartory. :) The question was regarding whether one could find a decent sub-$1000 bow, and what definition of "decent" we could use as criteria.

Gennady, what attributes do you think a bow needs to have to qualify it for regular use in terms of what professional performers and teachers like yourself require?

May 30, 2007 at 06:46 PM · To me, a decent bow is one that allows me to play with ease all the strokes that I know I have the proper technique for. Obviously, this definition only applies to me and not others. BTW, I have a stick that simply refuses to bounce. I wouldn't call that a decent bow. :)

May 30, 2007 at 11:04 PM · Hello Gene:

After reading your post, I conclude I should give the Arcos a second try. Will be difficult for me, as the nearest vendor is some 2000 miles away. Last when I tried one, the bow was that of a colleague and not for sale, but was at the $1000 mark. Sure, I would like to own that bow, so no argument from me about your affiinity for the brand. But in many things you get what you pay for. As Arcos now makes various bows (see website), I doubt seriously they would sell a $1000 bow for $500, or the $500 would give the same performance as the $1000 bow. A reduction in price for a reduction in quality or performance makes sense to me, though seemingly it does not to other readers.

The point of my post was caveat emptor, though I may have presented a rambling argument. Using simple factors, I think most people would reason the "slew of bows" should be considered suspect, and very likely fakes. The dollar limits are not absolutes, but based upon my personal experiences. The factors are general, and can be moot points. However the reader rationalises his/her purchase, I think most people would agree upon the premise of quality carries a price, world-wide.

My point about China is to say that even there, in a land where average earnings are comparatively low, a good Chinese product can still carry a world price due to quality and scarcity. It implies the Chinese make a greater financial sacrifice than most westerners would to own a genuine and quality pernambuco bow. Likewise for a foreign-made violin. But, as I have observed of the pros and conservatory students there, the sacrifice appears to be one they are willing to make. It implies also the Chinese recognise fakes, and avoid them. I would say in general for the Chinese society, caveat emptor is a pervasive force.

Beyond the above, I am sure we could debate points endlessly, which likely would give rise to new debates. Your points are well taken.

May 31, 2007 at 04:33 AM · Gene, In case you missed what I said, here it is again:

"A great bow feels like an extension of your arm, it can also take you to new heights where you never thought you could be in cantilena playing as well as virtuoso playing (with all the many intricate variety of bowings including bounced and ricochet bowings etc.).

A good instrument matched with a superb bow, will double the pleasure of playing and make the instrument sound at least 70% better than it would with a mediocre bow.

The superior bow will enhance the sound characteristics of your instrument.

That is why most players are always hunting for good/great bows."

For me, a good bow made by a master maker has to have "tone", good balance, resilience, tracking stability, reserve power and also have aesthetic beauty and harmony from frog to tip.

May 31, 2007 at 09:12 AM · Gennady, I understand you're trying to make a point here, but I think you're misunderstanding me. I can read your post just fine, however my question is not about laundry-listing terminology.

By what mechanical or artistic (or other) measurements are you describing the 1) tone, 2) balance, 3) resilience, 4) tracking, 5) stability, 6) reserve power, 7) aesthetics of a bow?

I'm sure that a huge number of people that read this board have vastly different conceptions about what those attributes mean as they relate to the quantitative assessments of bows, and I'm sure it would be very helpful to lots of people to hear from players who have experience with a wide range of bows to better understand the specific details one might observe when looking at bows. A lot of players here could fill a book on this subject, and perhaps in the future, something like a wiki of that knowledge ought to exist here on as a continuous reference as people join the community over the years to come.


The makers at Arcos Brasil have a whole lineup, from their least-expensive nickel-silver mounted product found for around $400-$500 in shops here in the USA, up to much better versions in the multi-thousand dollar range with (what I assume are) variables such as better wood selection and craftsmanship that permit those bows to exemplify some of the quality ideals that Gennady has mentioned in his posts. Although I've heard from many others as well that none of their modern bows approaches the quality of their historic ones...a colleague I'm playing clarinet quintets with next week has a lovely Voirin and I have to agree it's one of the best handling bows I've ever played, next to one of my teacher's personal favorite (an Etienne Paejot), and of course a whole collection of wonderful makes in the possession of a group of superb players from the Concertgebouw I was fortunate to meet and study with some summers ago (It must be really nice to have your orchestra supply you with a Gagliano and a Peccatte! :).

May 31, 2007 at 04:05 PM · Gene,

It is the same analogy you could use for choosing between someone who plays the Suzuki book1,2,3,4,5 very well and someone who can inspire the listener with a rendition of say the Bartok concerto.

You know when you are looking at a master made bow when you see it, and play it.

There are also many beautiful bows that do not deliver in playability, due to the lack of some of the variables I mentioned above: "tone", good balance, resilience, tracking stability, reserve power etc.

Succesful cambering (and the knowledge of), plays an integral part in the success of a good/great playing bow.

May 31, 2007 at 04:21 PM · Gene:

Again, your points are well taken. Definitely, I will look for an Arcos bow during my travels, and hope to try more than a few.

Gennady's points are well taken, too. No doubt he has a zeal for the best of bows, but then he is worthy of them. Gennady's remarks imply a good bow is more essential than a good violin, for a good bow will permit the capabilities of the player to flow forth, and the latent sound of the violin to ring out.

For those of us not so blessed with such talent, or the money needed, alas we must content ourselves with bows and violins far less in standard as Gennady's. Therein lies a great challenge and opportunity for bow makers and violinists alike: to find or not to find a great bow (ahem). My hunt for a bow is hampered by my travels, and the search has turned into a treasure hunt, only wthout a map.

So I thank you for your endorsement of Arcos, which allows me to put a clue onto my map. One of the great benefits of v-com is the opportunity to read such comments from people of stature and knowledge.

best wishes.

June 2, 2007 at 01:44 AM · Ron,

Are you saying that great modern bows made by master makers cost too much???

One can find a superb modern bow between 3K-5K.

If you are talking strictly about bows from $100-$500, then it is entirely a different conversation.

June 2, 2007 at 06:17 PM · Hi Gennady:

Hope to meet up with you someday.

Well, for me, the modern excellent bows you mention are beyond my reach. This is not to say they are unworthy of their price, only beyond my reach. I have learned the hard way that a good bow is much more important than a good violin. My comments are directed more to the $100-$500 range, for which I think caveat emptor is needed most. Gene's endorsement of Arcos is well taken, though I must be convinced that Arcos would sell a top quality bow for only $500, when they could sell for it $2000. I think what Gene is saying is that the average Arcos bow for $500 is worhty of praise and consideration, which I think is consistent with your main point for the modern bows starting at $3000. I have learned to temper my expectations to the strata, and hope someday to find a good deal within the stratum I choose eventually. Certainly, the comments of you, Gene, and others are appreciated.

June 3, 2007 at 01:13 AM · I totally agree about the bow being very important in the equation...for my students finding a better bow usually makes more of a difference than any instrument they can usually put out the finances for. Personally, I don't ever feel permanently attached to my current violin (although I enjoy playing it) but if anything happened to my Ouchard (not an old bow, ca. 1928, but still an excellent player nonetheless), I think I'd cry. :P

Gennady, have you played any bows by Klaus Gronke (son of Richard Gronke)? Any observations about their product?

June 3, 2007 at 06:00 AM · They are both fine makers in their own right, and have given much scolarship to the bowmaking profession in Germany.

I find the most interesting German makers today, are J,Tino Lucke, Daniel Schmidt, Gregor Walbrodt & Thomas M. Gerbeth.

This is my observation based on the playability of bows that I like and aesthetic beauty etc.

June 4, 2007 at 04:19 PM · If you're looking for good French bows at relatively reasonable prices, try Morizot. I have a couple of them, both bought at London auctions (Christies) for about $2000 - maybe just over. They have lovely firm sticks, are dead straight, and characteristically have rounded bottom corners on their frogs. One of mine has a purely silver "Paris eye" (no mother of pearl).

June 4, 2007 at 05:53 PM · prices vary according to markets (and their locations).

Also..... auction prices do not really reflect retail prices.

If you have not tried any bows by the "New French school", you should.

Historically, after the two world wars and the passing of the great early 20th century makers such as Sartory, Fetique, E.A.Ochard, bowmaking in France saw the end of an era with the Morizot brothers.

It was not until B. Ouchard set up the Lutherie school at Mirecourt (in the 1950's), that he gave rebirth to the bowmaking tradition in France with the likes of Rolland, Raffin, Thomachot, Clement and more recently Bigot, LeCanu and G.Nehr.

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