Bella Voce is Italian for “beautiful voice”; this model was introduced in 1927 and remained in the Gibson line for only three years. One of the most ornate banjos ever produced by Gibson, the Bella Voce was available with a variety of woods and trim options; the dark wood seen on this example is possibly rosewood. This Bella Voce is a tour-de-force of carving, painting, “Christmas tree” binding, elaborate mother-of-pearl inlay, gold plating, and engraving. The flange is two-piece and the tone ring is a no-hole archtop. The Grover clamshell tailpiece is engraved “Bella Voce“.
#8552-7 (see Gibson banjo serial numbers vs. factory order numbers) dates to 1927 and the first known lot of Bella Voce and Florentine banjos produced by Gibson. It remains in excellent original condition including its hardshell case. The stamped factory order number near the neck notch in the resonator is unusual for Gibson and may have been placed there by a prior owner after the original enamel number was worn away.
Photos courtesy of an anonymous owner.