a violin named ruby

Tucked away on the 10th floor of the Fine Arts Building, located on the 400 block of S. Michigan in Chicago, is a magical place. Bein & Fushi. If you’re like me, you’d never know that sales of the world’s finest stringed instruments (violins, violas, cellos) happen here. Don’t believe me? Have you heard of Stradivarius violins? They are some of the most-sought after on the planet and, yeah, Bein & Fushi has brokered the sale of many.

Are you ready to fall in love? This is Ruby. She was constructed in 1708 in Cremona, Italy.


Source: Bein & Fushi, Inc. Selected Notable Sales: Ruby.

I happen to have a friend whose brother is on staff at Bein & Fushi, and I had the occasion for an impromptu tour and leaped at the opportunity. You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate how special this shop is. It really is.

There have been endless studies on what makes these violins so special. Steven Sirr, a Minnesota radiologist ran Betts, a 1704 Stradivarius violin, through a number of CT scans. Sirr wrote:

I assumed the instrument was merely a wooden shell surrounding air. I was totally wrong. There was a lot of anatomy inside the violin. Just like human beings, there is a wide range of normal variation among violins. When you are looking at an instrument that is hundreds of years old, you will see worm holes and cracks that have been repaired, as well as damage from being exposed to all kinds of conditions, from floods to wars.

Turns out there’s a lot of science to instruments like Betts and Ruby. To learn about the prevailing theories of what makes their sound so unique, head on over here with a proper shout out to the writers at Scientific American.