Expensive bows should have a certificate.
A good bow certificate.
Yet, some of these certificates can be either partially or completely incorrect.
The certificates are usually made by one appraiser. A panel of experts could probably get closer to the truth. They could get together to discuss the authorship, the state and the value of a bow.
In the past bowmakers didn’t work alone, they had several makers in the shop.
For that reason it is often difficult to know who has actually made a bow, even if there is a stamp. On top of that, nearly all of the old bows have seen many rehairs, a few repairs, curve corrections, new silver windings and, even , sometimes, the frog and the button have been replaced.
Another major problem is that appraisers are influenced by the circumstances under which a bow has come into their shop: with whom it has come and the story behind it.
If a bow belongs to me, I could have a bigger interest in writing a bow certificate in which it is attributed to a famous name. If the bow comes into the shop with somebody I don’t know and I don’t trust, I will unconsciously find all the details which do not fit into the picture.
When writing a bow certificate we all do our best to judge it correctly. But the problem is that we are not conscious of our biases.
If there are more experts together, there is no common interest in attributing it to a certain maker or not.
More eyes see more details, too.
When I have to write a bow certificate, at the first glance I see nothing else than just a bow, but slowly I recognize more and more details.
My brain builds a replica of the bow in front of me. First, I look at the quality of the pernambuco and the ebony. Then I see how it was made: I see beauty and a certain style. Then, the first ideas come up about the authorship. Unconsciously, my brain checks those options with the bows I have seen in the past and compares them.
Every bow is different, but they should have a lot of common details. If there is enough in common one decides it is from the same maker. But there are always some details which do not fit into the picture. So practically that makes almost every bow certification discussable and that is what we should do in a panel.
You can see here our first attempt at a bowmaker’s panel: www.internationalbowmakersforum.nl/
I would be interested to form a new panel and do bow certification on a regular basis.
It is a project that needs sponsors and enough people who want to know more about their bows.
If you are one of them please contact me.