Jean-Francois Raffin is an authority sought after by many buyers of fine bows. His certificates provide a reliable guide in a market where the average price of an antique French bow is well over five times it's weight in gold. Condition and authenticity in all parts are more sensitive than for the violin, and many leading dealers do not issue certificates other than with a purchase. Atelier Raffin will issue a certificate for a genuine bow at a cost of 5% of the lower value estimate, so a E. Sartory bow valued at £10,000-£12,000 would cost £500 for a bow submitted to them and given a certificate.
Raffin certificates are often offered by dealers and eBay sellers as any search of "French Violin Bow" will confirm. They are written in French with 3 printed headings "Baguette" "Hausse" and "Bouton" - Stick, Frog, and Adjuster- followed by handwritten data by Jean-Francois Raffin and his signature.
I have never actually seen a translation offered on eBay, the certificate is usually readable in the pictures accompanying the bow. The first part indicates if the bow is authentic in all the principal parts. An old bow may have a frog by a later maker, and this would be stated. The mounts are indicated by gold, silver and "mallechort" which indicates nickel or German silver, a mixture, not recognised seperately by Raffin!
One Raffin certificate seen on eBay was for a French master bow stated by the seller to be " authentic in principal parts" and with a silver mounted frog, however the adjuster was stated "mallechort" or nickel, and as makers would not mix a silver frog with a nickel adjuster it can be reasonably assumed that the adjuster was not original. The seller who had a very good feedback profile made no mention of the mounts in the description, but the certificate was visible with the zoom feature.
Whilst the certificate could be misleading in it's first part, the full certificate gave an accurate description of the bow.
It pays to read the certificate thoroughly with a good knowledge of French or help from a French speaking friend.!!
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