Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry at Texas A&M University, has spent 33 years trying to prove his theory that chemicals used on the instruments are responsible for the distinctive sounds of the violins, the university reported.
The research is published in the journal Public Library of Science.
Working with Renald Guillemette of the university's geology department and Clifford Spiegelman, a professor of statistics, Nagyvary obtained tiny wood samples from violin restorers and burned the wood slivers to ash.
Tests showed numerous chemicals in the wood, including borax, fluorides, chromium and iron salts.
"The presence of these chemicals all points to collaboration between the violin makers and the local drugstore and druggist at the time," Nagyvary said Thursday in a release. "Their probable intent was to treat the wood for preservation purposes. Both Stradivari and Guarneri would have wanted to treat their violins to prevent worms from eating away the wood because worm infestations were very widespread at that time."
Nagyvary said he believes the findings could change the way in which fine violins are made today.