Discovering the Secret Process

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.

Osman II, Sultan (1616-1622)


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').

The First Cymbal Foundry
Zildjian Foundry in Samatya


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).

The Secret Lives On
‘Zilzen’ (cymbal player) showing cymbals played both vertically and horizontally


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

Classical Composers
Nicolaus Adams Strungkally


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

European Military Bands
Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozar


During the 18th Century, cymbals become increasingly popular in European military bands. In 1782, Mozart uses cymbals to represent the popular Janissary music in Il Seraglio. Twelve years later, Haydn uses cymbals in his 'Military Symphony'.

Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner


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.

Cerone Zildjian


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).

The Ottoman Empire
Abdul-aziz, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1861-1876)


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”.

The Haroutune's Family
Haroutune’s Family (Avedis III not pictured as he is already in America)


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 Zildjian


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.

The First American Cymbal Factory


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.

Avessi III


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 & Gene Krupa


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.

Armand Zildjian


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

Chick Webb, Avedis, and Papa Jo Jones


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.

Armand and Avedis in the Melting Room


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.

The Legacy Continues
Armand at 39 Fayette Street, Quincy, MA


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.




Modern Jazz
Avedis and Armand with Shelly Manne


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.