Jay Ifshin was born in Miami, Florida in 1951, where he worked as a diesel mechanic after high school. Listening to recordings of famous violinists, Ifshin was inspired to learn the violin. Upon realizing the limitations of the violin he was renting, and convinced that he could make one that was better, Ifshin applied to the Violin Making School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was accepted in 1974. His primary teachers were Paul Hart and Peter Prier. After school hours were spent in Prier's violin shop learning repair and restoration. During his time at the school, he studied alongside some of today's most important American makers.
Ifshin left Salt Lake City in 1977, later arriving in Bozeman, Montana, where he continued to make and repair violins. In 1979 he moved to Berkeley, California. Working from his basement apartment, he made violins and sold them at the rehearsals of local orchestras. After a few months, he went to work for the Berkeley Violin Center, a one room storefront shop on busy University Avenue, with a history going back to the 1930's. There, he continued making violins as well as doing repairs and restorations.
In 1981 he took over the workshop which then became Ifshin Violins. Over the years Ifshin has assembled a large personal collection of rare French bows and Italian violins. In 2008, Ifshin Violins designed, built and moved to a much larger studio in El Cerrito, California. In 1981, Ifshin had only two part-time employees. The workshop has grown and prospered, and today there is a staff of 16. Ifshin Violins is recognized world-wide for the sale and restoration of fine string instruments and bows. Jay Ifshin is a member of the Appraisers Association of America and is frequently called upon to examine stringed instruments and bows. Jay Ifshin together with Haide Lin, Shop Foreman also produce the Jay Haide l'ancienne series of instruments.