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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
10m violin 'the real thing'
The Messiah violin (pic courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
The violin is worth 10m
A new study appears to have disproved allegations that one of the world's most valuable violins, worth an estimated 10m, is a fake.

The instrument, known as the Messiah, is housed at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum.

It is supposed to have been made by the Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari in 1716, before being passed to a 19th Century French violin maker and copyist, which led to rumours it was a fake.

Now, researchers claim that a new study into the wood used to make the instrument shows it is a Stradivari original after all.

The forgery idea gained ground when two unpublished studies suggested that the wood used to make the instrument's spruce soundboard was still growing in 1738 - a year after Stradivari died.

And in 2000, British violin restorer John Topham dated the youngest of 93 annual tree rings on the soundboard to 1682.

But now a new study from the US may finally put an end to the forgery allegations.

Unnoticed tree rings

A team led by Henri Grissino-Mayer, from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, looked at previously hidden parts of the instrument, such as under the fingerboard.

The researchers found 14 previously unnoticed tree rings and dated the youngest at 1687, New Scientist magazine reported.

The work, to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, shows that the wood was contemporary with Stradivari's lifetime.

"It is certainly the last word on tree rings," said Mr Grissino-Mayer.

"Whether it's the last word on authenticity - I'll leave that to the violinists."

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