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Last Updated: Wednesday May 17 2006 11:07 GMT

World record fee paid for violin

A violin has become the most expensive musical instrument in the world after selling for $3.5m (1.8m) at auction.

A mystery buyer splashed out to buy the violin, known as The Hammer, which was made by top violin maker Antonio Stradivari in 1707.

The instrument broke the $2.03m (1.07m) 2003 record paid for another violin made by him.

During the auction people gasped as the price for the Stradivarius instrument reached $3m (1.5m).

For the past few years the violin has been privately owned but was sometimes loaned out to orchestras around the world.

Although the buyer has remained anonymous, experts at the auction house said it was likely that the new owner would continue to lend it out.

Famous craftsman

Stradivari was a very famous violin maker who is thought of as one of the best craftsmen in the history of the instrument.

He crafted over 1,000 violins, violas and violoncellos, including some made especially for King James II of England and King Charles III of Spain.

About 620 of his creations are thought to still exist.

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