The price of violins by 18th century Italian master Antonio Stradivari has shot through the roof in recent decades, with the instruments now worth 500 times their weight in gold, reports Der Spiegel. Three powerful dealers control a shadowy worldwide market rife with intrigue where frenzied collectors seek out the rare instruments that sell for millions.
Institutions and collections have snatched up many Strads of late, heating competition for the dwindling supply that remains on the market—and spurring forgeries. Even as the world clamors for the instruments, nobody is sure why they sound so good. Competing theories cite the varnish, fungi in the wood, or the effect of unusually cold winters on wood Stradivari used.