Gold-mounted or silver?

May 11, 2010 at 04:41 PM ·

Hello all: An age-old debate here - Do gold-mounted bows really have better wood than silver-mounted? I have asked this question to a very well reputed bow maker and it really is to do with the weight and balance of the bow, the quality of the wood is not that much different. 

What's your input/experience? 

Replies (25)

May 11, 2010 at 06:25 PM ·

I have a friend who is a bow maker and he has told me that he only uses gold when making a bow that's for a competition. So, with this particular maker, I guess you could expect that if you found one of his gold mounted bows, it would be better all around (better wood, better craftsmanship, etc) than a regular silver mounted bow, simply because of the fact that he intended the bow to be a most excellent example of his work.

However, not all makers take gold mountings so seriously. I tried a gold mounted bow one time by a maker I won't name, and it left me quite cold. Nothing special whatsoever.

May 11, 2010 at 08:30 PM ·

May 11, 2010 at 09:57 PM ·

What do and did the pros and the masters prefer?

May 11, 2010 at 10:12 PM ·

Of course a silver mounted bow by a great maker may be far, far better than a gold mounted piece by a so-so maker.

May 11, 2010 at 10:40 PM ·

The guy who I go to for my rehairs puts gold mountings on his bows that he considers to be of extra high quality, and silver mountings on the rest, and there is a $2000 price difference. I've never tried anything but his gold mounted bows (which I must say are very excellent).

May 12, 2010 at 12:00 AM ·

Seems to me it is all about aesthetics than performance.

May 12, 2010 at 01:17 AM ·

 "Allot of electronic plugs,conductors have gold plating and also on high end stereo equipment as well"

Sure--and those boutique stereo stores make a killing on them too. The last gold-mounted bow I owned, a gorgeous Hill bow with immaculate tortoise frog with a gold rose, turned out to be a club. It's curious how bow makers figure out which of their bows are good--none of the bowmakers I've been to could actually play anything, let alone strokes that could really test a bow's mojo.

I only ask for silver-mounted bows now when I'm looking.

May 12, 2010 at 05:56 AM ·

Scott,

I'd guess that the clubby "Hill" you had would be post 1960, after Watson and Bultitude left the firm. Their one-time senior bowmaker Retford had a lot to say about dealers who insisted on putting gold mounts on heavy, stiff and unresponsive sticks. There are gold-mounted "Hills" quite unlike the one you mention.

I'd go along with the opinion that usually gold mounts are reserved by makers for their better sticks.

May 12, 2010 at 07:31 AM ·

Great information. I was told that W E Hill and Sons ensured that only their best sticks were gold-mounted. I own four Hill bows, one of them gold-mounted with whalebone lapping. Two of them are in the 58-59 grams range from the 1930s (both, with whalebone lapping) and the other two are 60 grams and 61 grams, from the 50s and 60s, based on the numbers on the stick and the frog.  A professional violinist tried them out and, weight and mounting unbeknownst, picked the silver-mounted bow weighing in at about 61 grams with the silver lapping. The whalebone lapping, probably, caused the other two bows to weigh less.

I have also heard that the sticks stamped HILL or H&S or  W E H&S, basically, lower-end bow, were more stiff and less flexible than the ones stamped W E Hill & Sons (high-end). Nowadays, most violinists appear to prefer the stiffer Hill bows rather than the flexible, "nervous", lighter bows in the 56-59 gram range.

Bottom line: It's all a matter of individual preference and the mounting, while it may add value to collectors, has no bearing on the "playability" of the bow.

May 12, 2010 at 11:46 AM ·

I have heard it said that the sticks Hills selected for gold mounts were picked out for appearance - thats to say, freedom from blemishes and beauty of the heads, etc. etc. Pre WW2 there seem to have been either "nervy" or "blockbuster" sticks throughout their price-range. I have an extremely satisfactory "Hill" (No. 4 grade) !

May 13, 2010 at 09:45 PM ·

 David,

That beautiful billy-club was in fact a Bultitude.

Scott

May 14, 2010 at 06:13 AM ·

Scott,

That beautiful billy-club was in fact a Bultitude.

Interesting. Sorry, I didn't spot that your "Hill" had a rose inlaid, so it wasn't actually a Hill. Bultitudes are usually "robust" but good workers. After his time there the top Hill bows could often be even clubbier. Oddly, the same makers (e.g. Clutterbuck, Taylor, Alvey and Bristow) proved they could turn out more sensitive bows after they left to work on their own, which suggests to me that the management of the firm were dictating a policy, maybe wanting to emulate or even exceed the solidity of the Sartory bows whose popularity was rising.

 I have two 65gm Bultitudes which work just fine on a well-wooded "Guarneri" inspired Lucci violin, but seem clumsy on other instruments. Horses for courses ! Only one's gold mounted, and performance-wise there's little difference.

A bow that broke the record for a post ww2 W.E.Hill and Sons gold "fleur de lis" at Sothebys was made by Bill Watson, circa 1960. This bow was (or is) a strong stick but not a clunker, IMHO. 

ps lots of concertmasters over here joined the billy-club club and used Bultitude bows. Since a billy-club is a truncheon, or law-enforcement weapon, they clearly took the disciplinary side of their jobs VERY seriously.

May 15, 2010 at 03:47 AM ·

now days most bow makers test the density of the wood . and look for straight grain no knots. if all this adds up that bow may lend itself to be a gold mounted bow. it is also for the customers weather they want to spend the extra for a modern bow maker to put gold on the bow or not. as far as the gold mounted bow not being liked over the silver a lot of that could go into user preference. some one with a thicker instrument might like a heavy bow. but a heavy bow could crush a thinner instrument or be to difficult for the player to move. There is also a players preference of fitting the bow to the instrument. not all bows are going to affect your instrument the same way. I purchased a Klotz violin from a customer and it came with a Pfretzner bow. the bow was deffidently made for viola but it had a violin frog (which does not mean much seems how that the little curve on the end of the frog happened latter). the bows wheight was 69 grams gave plenty of response with the lightest of touch. the instrument belonged to a ladies husband who passed away. I figured he was not a small guy to use such a bow. I have played with it a lot, and it is a little harder to move then a normal violin bow. so it all goes to what works for the customer. plus trying different things for a time to see what kind of results you can come up with.

May 15, 2010 at 05:44 AM ·

Gold, silver ..why not bronze ?

Actually there are lots of good nickel-mounted bows. Judging from other posts, the days of the trophy heavy and stiff gold-mounted bow are over - anyone who ever wanted one got one and the world moved on. One more thought - if looking to buy "used":- players are apt to keep their gold-mounted bows for Sunday best and many survive in good condition, whereas the old silver-mounted ones are likely to have suffered heavier use, and require restoration. 

May 15, 2010 at 09:33 AM ·

 Uh,

In RF/microwave equipment, they just don't fudge around and make everything out of gold. Silver's most conductive, but there are corrosion issues. Nickel's poisonous, and make some ppl break out. 

Therefore, gold is best. 

May 15, 2010 at 02:35 PM ·

 Good point, Lex.

Silver blackens. It's caused by sulphur in the air. Cleaning the family silver is SUCH a chore ! Does Allen have coal fires ??

Gold is relatively maintenance free. But Allen wanted to know if you get better wood if you buy a gold-mounted bow. The answer seems to be:- probably, yes.

May 15, 2010 at 03:30 PM ·

 So I'm going to hijack this thread a little.  I'm interested in buying a Diamond bow.  The silver mounted is about $200 more than the nickel mounted.  What do you suggest?

May 15, 2010 at 03:53 PM ·

 Many apparel manufacturers (and makers of bandages) are now putting silver in their products due to the anti-microbial properties of the metal.

I think that sums up the argument.

May 15, 2010 at 04:06 PM ·

I was told not so long ago, by someone I trust, that at one time nickel was more valuable than silver. It was relatively new as a metal, so it was all the rage. For a while, it was used for better bows. That does seem to make sense to me, because I have seen/played some nickel mounted bows that were definitely top quality, and I would have expected silver on them.

gc

May 15, 2010 at 06:21 PM ·

  I meant Coda Diamond.

May 15, 2010 at 09:15 PM ·

I was wondering about that Michael. I thought, "Geez, for this guy even a GOLD mounted bow isn't good enough, he wants a DIAMOND bow!!!"

:-P

May 16, 2010 at 03:21 AM ·

 Just a tad pretentious of me.... ! Although diamond is my birth stone.... 

May 16, 2010 at 06:51 AM ·

I thought diamond bows were only for when someone was proposing to marry a violinist.

May 16, 2010 at 03:33 PM ·

Pure gold is soft. The higher the number of "carats" the purer it is, up to a maximum of 24 carats, almost 100% gold. It's alloyed with copper, to give it more guts. Spelling in the USA is "karat".

Carat on a stick !

May 17, 2010 at 12:10 AM ·

Well, gold fittings are generally used on a better grade of stick, but it would be an enormous oversimplification to assume that gold-mounted bows are better than silver mounted. I prefer the gold mounting because it doesn't tarnish.  BTW, my understanding is that the gold used is generally low carat (10 or 12) and fairly resistant to wear.

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