Red Diamond Mandolins

Hand crafted in Athens, Ohio, the name represents a history of excellence in craftsmanship that is put in each instrument.

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The History of "The Red Diamond"

The Red Diamond, a Stradivarius created by the master luthier Antonio Stradivari in 1732 in Cremona, Italy is one of the most storied violins in the world today. In addition to its strikingly rich, dark red varnish, which instantly sets it apart from comparable instruments; this particular violin enjoys a California connection, a value in the millions and, perhaps, a charmed existence.

Brought out of Italy by the famous violin dealer Tarisio, it was sold to a Paris dealer who, in turn sold it in 1860 to Mr. Herwyn, a professor at the Paris Conservatoire. From there it entered the famous George Haddock Collection in England until it was acquired by George Hart of the violin house of Hart & Sons. Hart played the Stradivarius for many years in his capacity as a soloist and quartet player until he died in 1891. The Red Diamond was then sold to a Scottish nobleman, who retained ownership until Hart & Sons regained possession of it and subsequently resold it to Francis Underhill, an amateur musician in New York.

In 1936 the now renowned violin was sold to art lover and philanthropist Mrs. John W. Garrett, who bought it specifically to loan it to the first violinist of the Musical Art String Quartet, Sascha Jacobsen, who was to retain use of it throughout his lifetime. What happened to the Stradivarius next is just short of a miracle.

On Jan. 16, 1953, as a violent rainstorm pelted Los Angeles, Sascha Jacobsen, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, was driving along the coastal highway to Pacific Palisades, the Red Diamond in its case beside him. His car stalled near Santa Monica and water from an overflowing stream began to surround the vehicle and fill it up. Seeking to escape the flood, Jacobsen grasped his violin case, stepped from the car into the rising waters and struggled through the torrent to higher ground. The Red Diamond was swept from his arms and out to sea as he barely made his way to safety. He watched, helpless, as the violin case floated away.

The next day, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, Frederick H. Sturdy, was walking along the beach of the Bel Air country club and spotted a violin case stuck in the sand. Inside the case he found slime, sand, water–and the pieces of a violin. By amazing coincidence, Sturdy was a friend of Alfred Wallenstein, music director of the Philharmonic. When he learned the following day of Jacobsen’s disaster and the loss of the Red Diamond, Sturdy immediately contacted Wallenstein. Identified as the lost Strad, the salt water-logged and sand-encrusted violin parts were entrusted to Hans Weisshaar, an outstanding luthier. Over the next nine months, Weisshaar painstakingly restored the violin, returning it to its “former glory…both in tone and appearance,” Jacobsen later wrote in appreciation. He told friends the Red Diamond sounded “better than ever.”

In 1971, a few years after Jacobsen’s death, the Red Diamond was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in London for $67,600–far more than it was insured for at the time of its ocean ordeal. The violin was put on the auction block by Sotheby’s again in 1985, with an asking price of more than $1 million, but was not sold at that time. A few years later, an anonymous collector purchased it privately for an undisclosed sum–surely paying as much for the magic of its reincarnation as for its other exemplary attributes.”

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