Gibson TB – Bella Voce Mastertone #0283-84

Bella Voce is Italian for “beautiful voice”; this model was introduced in 1927 and remained in the Gibson line for only three years.   Described in Gibson’s 1927 banjo catalog as “a royal member of the banjo family”, the Bella Voce was one of the most ornate banjos ever produced by the company and was available with a variety of woods and trim options; this example features curly maple with multicolored “Christmas tree” binding.  Although Gibson literature described the resonator and neck ornamentation of the Bella Voce as being hand-carved, in reality only the peghead and heel decorations were carved; the designs on the back and sides of the resonator were pressed.  The tone ring is a forty-hole archtop and is stamped on the top with the number 0211; these stamped numbers have been seen on a number of banjos from the 1927-1928 period, but their significance is unknown.  The tone ring on #0283-84 also features the number 0 stamped on the top, again with unknown significance.  Another unusual feature of this example is the presence of an ink-stamped lot number on top of the rim.  The Grover “two-hump” clamshell tailpiece is engraved “Bella Voce“; the tuners are the original “Planet” pegs with genuine mother-of-pearl buttons.  The peghead overlay and rosewood fingerboard are inlaid with the most intricate inlay pattern of any catalogued Gibson banjo.  The gold-plated hardware features extensive engraving on the tension hoop, tone ring, flange, armrest, and tailpiece.

Factory order numbers with leading zeroes are seen on prewar Gibson banjos only for a brief period in 1927-1928, concurrent with the introduction of the Bella Voce and Florentine models.  #0283-84 surfaced in 2017 in the Greater New York City area.  It remains in original condition with the except of replaced resonator thumbscrews, one replaced tuner button, one replaced bracket and nut, and a replaced tailpiece base, mounting bolt, and adjustment screw.