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Zildjian : The Father of Cymbals

The first Zildjian cymbals were created in 1623 by Avedis Zildjian, an alchemist who was looking for a way to turn base metal into gold; he created an alloy combining tin, copper, and silver into a sheet of metal that could make musical sounds without shattering. Avedis was given the name of Zildjian (Zilciyân) by the Sultan Osman II (from the Turkish word zil - cymbal, dji - maker-seller, ian - a common suffix used in Armenian last names) and began an industry in 1623, the details of whose main product remained secret for generations. It became family tradition that only the company's heirs would know the manufacturing process.

Zildjian cymbals
The Zildjian Company moved from manufacturing noisemakers to frighten the enemies of the Ottoman Empire to manufacturing its cymbals as musical instruments in the 19th century.

Around 1928, Avedis III, his brother Puzant, and Aram Zildjian began manufacturing cymbals in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the Avedis Zildjian Co. was formed in 1929, the year the Great Depression began, in competition with the K. Zildjian company in Turkey. Avedis made many innovations in cymbals that are still around today; he was the first to develop drum-set cymbals and gave cymbals names such as ride, crash, splash, and hi-hat. Jazz drummers such as Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Shelly Manne, Cozy Cole, and Papa Jo Jones all used Avedis Zildjian cymbals. 

Zildjian black cymbal
Avedis III's son Armand Zildjian, also known as the "Father of Artist Relations," also began hand-selecting cymbals for all the top drummers. It was his close personal relationships with the top drummers and percussionists of the day that Zildjian still bases its Artist Relations department on. In 1968, the K. Zildjian Co. and all European trademarks were bought back on behalf of the Avedis Zildjian Co. Also in 1968, Avedis split production into two separate operations, opening the Azco factory in Meductic, New Brunswick, Canada.

From 1968 to 1970, the Azco factory produced Zilco cymbals. There were two types of Zilco: one was a thin rolling produced without any hammering, which cut costs. At about this time in the Azco factory, the modern process for pressing cymbals into shape came about. Before this it was done by bumping with the Quincy drop hammer.

In 1970, Zildjian needed all their production capabilities at Azco for their regular Zildjian line, so the factory in Quincy (the then location of Zildjian) would send up castings to be finished into cymbals at Azco.

In 1975, Zildjian began making K. Zildjian cymbals at the Azco plant. This was an interesting time for the Zildjian clan because it was the first time that K. Zildjian Istanbul and the Avedis Zildjian Company had worked together to make the same Zildjian cymbals after years of competing with each other. These were made until 1979.

In early 1977, Armand Zildjian was appointed President of the Avedis Zildjian Company by his father. Soon after, Robert Zildjian split from the company amidst conflict with his brother, Armand. Shortly thereafter, in 1981, Robert started making Sabian cymbals in the Meductic Azco factory.

After taking over in 1981, Armand was awarded a number of honors from his 65-year career.
  • In 1988, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music.
  • In 1994, he was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.
  • He was one of the few manufacturers to be honored at the "Rock Walk" on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
  • In 2002, he was presented with the Modern Drummer Editor's Achievement Award.
Zildjian ride cymbals
In keeping with tradition, Armand passed the Zildjian Secret Alloy to his daughters, Craigie and Debbie (14th generation), both of whom continue to run the family business from the current factory in Norwell, Massachusetts.

Craigie is the first female CEO in Zildjian's history and Debbie is the Vice President of Human Resources. They became the first women to fully understand the Zildjian Secret Alloy.

Both Craigie and Debbie's daughters (the 15th generation of Zildjians) are an integral part of the family business. Debbie's daughter Cady Bickford Zildjian joined the company in 2007 and is currently the New Business Development Coordinator. Her other daughter Emily completed a two-year cymbal apprenticeship where she followed in her grandfather's footsteps learning the delicate process of making Zildjian cymbals. While Craigie's daughter Samantha is finishing her Bachelors Degree, she interns at Zildjian assisting with New Business Development.

Other than cymbals, the Avedis Zildjian Company produces products such as drum sticks and other drum accessories. The Artist Series drum sticks allow these endorsers to personalize their drum sticks, and these sticks are sold to the public.

The Avedis Zildjian Company continues to produce cymbals today in Norwell, Massachusetts. [source : Zildjian]

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