There is a good possibility that the reclaimed wood that is in your flooring was alive during the Little Ice Age. The change in the global climate caused millions to starve and thousands to cross the ocean looking for a fresh start. Despite the hardships that the change in the global climate wrought not everything that came out of it was bad.
Born sometime in the 1640s was an Italian named Antonio Stradivari in Cremona in Northern Italy. Little is known about his childhood until he was about 12 when he either apprenticed with violin maker Nicola Amati or worked as a woodmaker in Cremona where he decorated Amati’s violins. If he did apprentice as a violin maker he would have produced his own violins by the time he was 16 and probably worked for Amati into his 40s when he would be considered a master and capable of beginning his own business.
Stradivari began developing his own style while working for Amati and began to develop a growing reputation. When Amati died in 1684 Stradivari took in much of his business. He experimented with making different carvings to the wood, making a larger pattern and changing the varnish of the instrument. By 1700 he was producing the finest violins and continued to do so until his age began to take its toll around 1720. He continued producing high quality instruments until his death in 1737. His sons Francesco and Omobono worked in his shop and Francesco took over the business.
The violins produced are considered to be the highest quality violins ever produced and are highly prized by professionals today like Yo-Yo Ma and can fetch well over ten million dollars. Even fictional heroes like Sherlock Holmes had one. Overtime the product name was Latinized to Stradivarius.
A recent study performed on a Stradivari as well as fellow Cremona luthier Giuseppe Guarneri’s violins was performed. The maple and spruce wood used was found to be different than even the highest quality modern wood. The Little Ice Age’s cold produced a denser wood and the much colder climate produced a much more consistent grain. The wood was also chemically treated to ward off fungus and worms with a treatment containing aluminum, calcium, copper and a few other metals. The salts used in the treatment also hardened the already dense wood keeping moisture out of the wood. Stradivari’s violins held 25% less moisture which produces a more brilliant sound. It is unknown whether this was known at the time but either way the Cremona violins are able to produce a dark, rich bass tone and the ability to play at a high frequency that modern violins just can’t match.
For many years it was believed that the trees that Stradivari used were lost to man but they are not. The forest known as Il Bosco Che Suona or The Musical Woods is located in the Fiemme Valley. A retired forest ranger, Marcello Mazzucchi, had a knack for being able to spot trees good for making musical instruments by drilling a core sample and observing the look of the tree. A local luthier employs Mazzucchi to find wood for him and while working he discovered the trees that were used. The unique combination of climate and altitude make these trees ideal for making wooden instruments even today, some of which can sell for over ten thousand dollars.