Avedis Zildjian Company

The Avedis Zildjian Company, simply known as Zildjian (/ˈzɪlən, -iən/),[1] is an Armenian-American musical instrument manufacturer and the largest cymbal and drumstick maker in the world. The company was founded in Kostantiniyye (present-day Istanbul, Turkey) by Avedis Zildjian in 1623, and is now based in Norwell, Massachusetts. Zildjian is one of the oldest manufacturers of musical instruments in the world. Zildjian sells cymbals, drumsticks, percussion mallets and other drum accessories under the Zildjian, Vic Firth and Balter Mallet brands.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Avedis Zildjian Company
IndustryMusical Instruments
FoundedKostantiniyye, Ottoman Empire (1623 (1623))
FounderAvedis Zildjian
United States
Key people
John Stephans CEO
ProductsCymbals, Drumsticks
  • Craigie Zildjian
  • Debbie Zildjian



The first Zildjian cymbals were created in 1618 by Avedis Zildjian,[8] an Armenian alchemist who was looking for a way to turn base metal into gold. He made an alloy of tin, copper, and silver into a sheet of metal, which could make musical sounds without shattering.[9] The Sultan Osman II the Young gave Avedis the name Zildjian (Zilciyân)[10] (zil is Turkish for "cymbal," ci means "maker", and ian is the Armenian suffix meaning "son of"), and in 1623 granted him permission to leave the palace to start his own business in a suburb of Constantinople named Psamatia.[11]

Zildjian's shop manufactured cymbals for the mehter, Ottoman military bands consisting of wind and percussion instruments, which belonged to the Janissaries. Mehter ensembles, which were known in the West primarily for playing in battle, also performed courtly music for Ottoman rulers.[8][12][13] The Zildjians likely also produced instruments for Greek and Armenian churches, Sufi dervishes, and belly dancers of the Ottoman harem, who wore finger cymbals.[8]

In 1850 Avedis II built a 25-foot schooner, in order to sail cymbals produced in Constantinople to trade exhibitions such as the Great Exhibition in London,[8] and to supply musicians in Europe.[14][15]

In 1865 Avedis II died, and his brother Kerope II took over the company.[16] He introduced a line of instruments called K Zildjian, which are used by classical musicians to this day.[8][17] Kerope II died in 1909 in Constantinople.[16]

In the late nineteenth century, Aram Zildjian, who was then head of the family, was forced by political conditions to flee to Bucharest.[18] There, he set up a second Zildjian factory, while Kerope I's daughter Victoria ran the Constantinople factory. This situation continued until about 1927.[15][10]


By 1910, Advedis III and his family fled Turkey due to the country's increasingly volatile relationship with Armenia. The Zildjian family eventually settled in Boston, Massachusetts.[19]

Around 1928, Avedis III, his brother Puzant, and his uncle Aram Zildjian began manufacturing cymbals in Quincy, Massachusetts,[20][21] and the Avedis Zildjian Co. was formed the following year in 1929.[22]

Avedis III sought out jazz drummers like Gene Krupa to understand their needs.[23] The new cymbals he developed were widely adopted by swing and later bebop musicians, laying the foundations of the modern drum kit and playing technique.[8]

Sales of Zidjian cymbals increased after Ringo Starr used the product in The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.[24]

In 1968, Avedis split production into two separate operations, opening the Azco factory in Meductic, New Brunswick, Canada.[25]

In 1975, Zildjian began making K. Zildjian cymbals at the Azco plant.[26] These were made until 1979. Within four years (1980), all K Cymbals were being made in the Norwell US plant, because the Ks demanded far more oversight. Armand worked with friends, the drummers Elvin Jones and Tony Williams to relaunch the K Series.

In early 1977, Armand Zildjian was appointed President of the Avedis Zildjian Company by his father.[27] Soon after, Robert Zildjian split from the company amidst conflict with his brother, Armand. In 1981, Robert started making Sabian cymbals in the Canadian Azco factory.[28]

Recent history

In 2002, Armand died at age 81. The Zildjian alloy recipe passed to his daughters, Craigie and Debbie (14th generation), both of whom continue to run the family business from the current factory in Norwell, Massachusetts.[27][29]

In 2010, Zildjian acquired the Vic Firth Company and in 2018 acquired the Mike Balter Mallet company expanding the company's product offerings to include a full range of drumsticks and percussion mallets.

See also


  1. "Pronunciation of zildjian". howjsay.com. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  2. Robert Kreitner, Carlene M. Cassidy (2011). Management (12th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage. p. 35. ISBN 9781111221362. Company, based in Norwell, Massachusetts, is the largest cymbal maker in the world and the oldest continuously family-run business in the United States.
  3. Lamb, Charles W. (2002). The Subject is Marketing (2nd Canadian ed.). Scarborough, Ont.: Nelson Thomson Learning. p. 26. ISBN 9780176169558. Avedis Zildjian of Norwell, Massachusetts, can trace its history back to 1623 in Constantinople. It is the world's largest maker of cymbals for drummers and musicians.
  4. Newsweek, Volume 71, Issues 1-9, 1968, p. 71 "As the only producer of cymbals in the U.S., the Zildjian company dominates a world market rapidly expanding with the proliferation of per- cussionary rock 'n' roll bands."
  5. The Music Trades, Volume 135, Issues 1-6, p. 90 "Maintaining its position as the world's largest cymbal producer, the Avedis Zildjian Company has announced an exciting joint venture with Barcus-Berry, Inc."
  6. "Robert Zildjian Dead: Founder Of Sabian Cymbal Company Dies At 89". The Huffington Post. 29 March 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  7. "Vic Firth Company and Avedis Zildjian Company Announce Merger". VicFirth.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  8. Lara Pellegrinelli (Aug 3, 2018). "A Family's 400-Year-Old Musical Secret Still Rings True". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-08-04.
  9. Charles C. Sharpe (1 November 1999). Patent, Trademark, and Copyright Searching on the Internet. McFarland. pp. 71–. ISBN 978-0-7864-6261-2.
  10. "About Zildjian". 22 October 2015.
  11. Down Beat. Maher Publications. 1977.
  12. The Middle East. IC Publications Limited. 1986.
  13. SPIN Media LLC (May 1989). SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. pp. 19–. ISSN 0886-3032.
  14. The School Musician Director and Teacher. Ammark Publishing Company. 1973.
  15. Dev Patnaik; Peter Mortensen (2009). Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper when They Create Widespread Empathy. FT Press. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-13-714234-7.
  16. Percussive Notes. Percussive Arts Society. 2008.
  17. The Trade-mark Reporter. United States Trademark Association. 1953.
  18. Woodwind World-brass & Percussion. Evans Publications. 1975.
  19. Anwar, Syed Tariq; Anwar, Susan Martin (September 2011). "Evolution of entrepreneurship and organizational configurations at Zildjian, 1623–2010". Journal of International Entrepreneurship. 9 (3): 128. doi:10.1007/s10843-011-0076-z.
  20. Percussive Notes. Percussive Arts Society. 1965.
  21. Music Trades. Music Trades Corporation. 1983.
  22. The United States Patents Quarterly. Associated Industry Publications. 1957.
  23. Modern Drummer: MD. Modern Drummer Publications. 2001.
  24. "Last week's trivia answer". Florida Weekly. June 26, 2019. Retrieved July 4, 2019 via The Motley Fool.
  25. James Holland (16 September 2005). Practical Percussion: A Guide to the Instruments and Their Sources. Scarecrow Press. pp. 84ff. ISBN 978-1-4616-7063-6.
  26. Modern Drummer: MD. Modern Drummer Publications. 1992.
  27. "Armand Zildjian, 81, Led Cymbal Company".
  28. "Robert Zildjian Robert Zildjian, who has died aged 89". Telegraph. Telegraph. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  29. "How a 390-year-old family business avoids layoffs".

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