Zildjian turns 400!


For 400 years, Zildjian has singularly focused on your limitless musical expression, by creating instruments with infinite sound capabilities.  It’s been our commitment to create the sounds that excite your imagination, and the tools that unleash your playing potential, that has kept us at the forefront of music across continents, across genres, and across centuries.  From Avedis Zildjian’s first strike of the anvil at the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire’s palace, to the 15th generation of Zildjian Family members today, our pursuit to create the best and most relevant instruments and tools continues.  From our factory floors, to our global Artist family, wherever you are on your musical journey, we hope to inspire you, and help you take your sound to the next level…and beyond. 



Avedis I, an Armenian alchemist living in Constantinople, discovers a secret process for treating alloys and applies it to the art of making cymbals of extraordinary clarity and sustain. The sultan’s famed Janissary bands are quick to adopt Avedis’ cymbals for daily calls to prayer, religious feasts, royal weddings, and the Ottoman army.


Sultan Osman II gives Avedis 80 gold pieces and the family name ‘Zildjian’, which means ‘cymbal smith’ in Armenian (Zil is Turkish for ‘cymbal’, dj means ‘maker’, and ian is the Armenian suffix meaning ‘son of’).


In 1623, Avedis receives the Sultan’s blessing allowing him to leave the Ottoman palace to start his own cymbal foundry in the suburbs of Constantinople (Samatya).


Avedis passes the secret process to his eldest son Ahkam, who succeeds Avedis in 1651.


Classical composers begin to incorporate cymbals into their works, the first known example being German composer Strungk in his opera “Esther”.


Classical composers begin to incorporate cymbals into their works, the first known example being German composer Strungk in his opera “Esther”.


During the mid to late nineteenth century, Berlioz and Wagner begin featuring an abundance of cymbals in their compositions and request that only Zildjian cymbals be used. Cymbals achieve an important and permanent position in orchestras.


Upon the death of Avedis II in 1865, the business passes to Avedis’ younger brother Kerope because Avedis’ sons (Haroutune II and Aram) are too young. Kerope exports 1300 pairs of cymbals per year throughout Europe and continues to travel to exhibitions, winning honors in Paris (1867), Vienna (1873), Boston (1883), Bologna (1888) and Chicago (1893).


After a series of disastrous fires, the Zildjian family is unable to pay their accumulated debts. The Zildjians receive attractive offers to transfer the business to Paris but do not want to leave their homeland… Sultan, Abdulaziz intercedes, ordering that “everything necessary is done to help the Zildjian family, whose quality of cymbals is unrivaled throughout the world”.


In 1909, the year of his death, Kerope passes the secret process back to Avedis’ family. Avedis’ older son Haroutune II declines his birthright in favor of entering a career in law and politics. The secret then goes to Haroutune’s younger brother Aram (the second son of Avedis II.)


Aram finds it difficult to continue manufacturing cymbals in Constantinople during a period of political upheaval. After joining the Armenian National Movement, he is forced to flee to Bucharest where he opens a second Zildjian factory. Eventually, Aram returns to his native country, where he exports cymbals around the world, especially to America, now the largest consumer of musical instruments in the world.


In 1927, Aram writes his nephew, Avedis III, who is already living in America, telling Avedis that it is now his turn to carry on the family business. Avedis III, the only surviving male in the direct line of succession, is now an American citizen, who owns a successful candy factory. Avedis tells Aram that he would not return to Turkey, but would like to relocate the family business here in America.


Aram agrees to come and help Avedis set up the first Zildjian cymbal foundry in America. The company is incorporated in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1929 just as the Jazz Era begins.


Avedis develops a life-long relationship with Gene Krupa, who helps Avedis adapt marching cymbals to the emerging drum set by encouraging Avedis to make thinner cymbals.


Avedis passes along the secret process to his 14-year-old son, Armand, who begins learning every facet of the business.


Avedis is also quick to embrace the talented African-American musicians who are leading the jazz movement. Having been discriminated during his own childhood as an Armenian living in Turkey, Avedis vows there will be no place for discrimination at the Zildjian Company. He works closely with artists like Chick Webb and Papa Jo Jones (who helps Avedis refine the HiHat.) During this period of innovation the “Paper Thin Crash”, “Ride”, “Splash”, “HiHat” and “Sizzle” cymbals are all developed and named by Avedis.


Once America enters the Second World War, both copper and tin are rationed by the War Production Board. Avedis, however, receives enough of an allocation to fill American and British military orders. This allows the business to continue through the tough war years even though Zildjian’s group of highly trained metal-smiths is reduced to just three men.


World War II also marks the only time the secret process is ever actually written down. Avedis keeps a copy of the formula in the company vault and another in his home in the event that his sons don’t return from the war. In 1945, Armand Zildjian, the most musical of all the Zildjians, returns from the war ready to assume responsibility for the manufacturing side of the business. Armand can now experiment with developing new sounds, an opportunity he has looked forward to for many years.


By 1950, Zildjian employs 15 workers, increasing output to 70,000 cymbals per year. The post-war economy and growing popularity of “modern jazz” continues to grow sales.


In hand-selecting cymbals for all the top professional drummers, Armand acquires a keen sense of what drummers are looking for. He is able to manipulate the subtleties of cymbal making to create the sounds drummers want and to address the changes taking place in music.


Following his father’s lead, Armand Zildjian, also known as the “Father of Artist Relations,” develops close personal relationships with all the top drummers and percussionists of the day, such as Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams.


Inspired by Louie Bellson, Zildjian introduces ‘New Beat’ HiHats, matched with a lighter top cymbal but heavier bottom for a more pronounced “chick” sound. ‘New Beats’ become standard equipment for all drummers overnight.


The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan show and the demand for Zildjian cymbals explodes. The company ends the year with 90,000 cymbals on backorder.


Zildjian opens its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Norwell, Massachusetts in time to celebrate its 350th Anniversary (the facility is twice expanded in 1981, and again in 1998.)


Breaking with tradition, Avedis invites his granddaughter Craigie Zildjian to join the family business. For the next three years, there are three generations of Zildjians working side-by-side in the family firm.


In 1977, Avedis names Armand President of the company. Armand sets a company-wide mission to take cymbal making to the next level. He invests millions to update the manufacturing operation and expand R&D in the newly created ‘Sound Lab’.


Sadly, Avedis passes away and Armand becomes Chairman of the Board.


In the early 1980s, Armand reinvests profits to finance such revolutionary advances in manufacturing as the rotary hearth, double rolling mills, and computer-controlled random hammering. Armand now has the equipment he needs to find the new sounds he is looking for.


Working with noted ‘K’ drummers Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, Zildjian re-launches the legendary, handcrafted ‘K’ line (named after Kerope Zildjian).


Armand’s son, Rab Zildjian, opens an Artist liaison office in Los Angeles, California and pioneers the first ‘Zildjian Day’ – a full-day drumming clinic, which quickly becomes a model for Percussion Days within the music industry. Zildjian also introduces the K/Z combination HiHats, the first HiHats created through the matching of the top cymbal from one range with a bottom cymbal from another.


Zildjian sets up its own fully integrated Drumstick Manufacturing Facility in Alabama, the heart of hickory country. Zildjian drumsticks soon become the first choice of top drummers like Louie Bellson, Tony Williams, Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting), Dennis Chambers (Santana), and Joey Kramer (Aerosmith).


Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting) helps Zildjian develop the ‘A Custom’ range of cymbals. ‘A Customs’ set a new standard in modern cymbal making, soon becoming one of Zildjian’s most popular models.


In 1995, the Zildjian Company designs a special room to assist orchestral players with their cymbal matching and selection process. Early visitors to this one-of-a-kind room include the Boston Symphony, London Symphony, and Royal Concertgebouw.


Zildjian becomes the first Percussion Company in the world to obtain the prestigious ISO 9001 Quality Certification.  ISO 9001 is a quality system recognized worldwide for manufacturing facilities that pass rigorous quality standards.


Armand Zildjian names his daughter Craigie, Chief Executive Officer. She becomes the first woman to ever hold the position. His younger daughter Debbie becomes Vice President of Human Resources and assumes responsibility for the same secret process of combining alloys.


The K Constantinople Cymbal is Armand’s last R&D project. He begins by developing an orchestral line but finds that these orchestral models also make great Ride cymbals. Beloved Chairman, Armand Zildjian, passes away at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 26, at the age of 81.


The 15th generation of Zildjians, Cady, and Emily (Debbie’s daughters), and Samantha (Craigie’s daughter) carry on the tradition of family participation in the oldest family-run business in the USA.


Designed with Akira Jimbo, the K Custom Hybrid Series combines two distinct lathing patterns that create the possibility of two different sound dynamics depending where the cymbal is played. Praised for its versatility and ability to produce both dark and bright overtones, the K Custom Hybrid series is awarded top industry and consumer awards.


The Avedis Zildjian Company, the world’s leading cymbal manufacturer, and the Vic Firth Company, the global market leader in drumsticks, join forces on December 20, 2010, bringing together two of the most respected legacy brands in the music industry.


Zildjian acquires the leading percussion mallet manufacturer, Mike Balter Mallets. A new manufacturing facility in Newport, Maine is purchased to accommodate the company’s growing drumstick and mallet business.


Zildjian celebrates its 400th Anniversary, continuing its legacy of creating sounds that inspire people to express themselves through music. 

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