The Avedis Zildjian Company is the world's largest manufacturer of cymbals and drum sticks and one of the oldest continually operating companies in the world.
The first cymbals were formed in 1618 in Constantinople by one Avedis, who, while looking for a way to turn base metal into gold, created an alloy combining tin, copper, and silver into a sheet of metal that could make musical sounds without shattering. Avedis took the surname of Zildjian, from Turkish "zil+ci" (cymbal-maker/seller) and the Armenian suffix "yan" (son of), and began an industry in 1623 whose main product remained secretive for generations. It became family tradition that only the oldest son of the company's head would know the manufacturing process.
This tradition ended with Avedis Zildjian III, who, just before his death, passed on the secret to both of his sons, Armand and Robert. This resulted in a family feud and a legal struggle which ended only when Robert left the company to form the rival Sabian cymbals company in 1981.
The Zildjian Company moved from manufacturing noisemakers to frighten the enemies of the Ottoman Empire to musical instruments in the 19th century. In 1908 Avedis Zildjian III migrated to Boston, while Kerope Zilcan continued to make cymbals in Turkey under the K. Zildjian Constantinople name. In 1923, the Turkish Republic was established and the name of Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul, resulting in the change of the company’s name from K. Zildjian Constantinople to K. Zildjian Istanbul. Around 1926, Aram Zildjian signed an exclusive American distribution agreement for K. Zildjian cymbals with Fred Gretsch Co.
Around 1928, Avedis III and Aram Zildjian began manufacturing cymbals in Massachusetts, and the Avedis Zildjian Co. was formed in 1929, a competitor against 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,” “Hi-Hat,” and “Sizzle.” Jazz drummers such as Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Shelly Manne, Cozy Cole, and Papa Jo Jones used Avedis Zildjian cymbals. The cymbals were made with both automated processes and hand hammering, but Zildjian ended the latter tradition in 1964 after a rise in demand resulting from the popularity of the Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr.
In 1968, the K. Zildjian Co. and all European trademarks were bought back by Robert Zildjian on behalf of the Avedis Zildjian Co.
Zildjian was having labor requirement issues with oven room operators and machine operators, so Avedis split the production into two separate operations, one for rolling and casting only, and one for finish work. They then opened up the Azco factory in Meductic, New Brunswick, Canada in 1968.
From 1968 to 1970, the Azco factory produced 'Zilco' cymbals. There were two types of Zilco's. One was a thin rolling produced without any hammering at all, which cut costs.
Robert Zildjian, with a man named Dick Dane, invented the modern process for pressing cymbals into shape around this time in the Azco factory. Prior to 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. At one point Azco was responsible for 40% of Zildjian's output.
In 1975 there were problems with the Turkish government, and Robert Zildjian went to Turkey and brought over a crew to start making K Zildjian cymbals in the Azco plant. This was an interesting time for the Zildjian clan because it was the first time that Kerope and Avedis Zildjian were working together to make the same "Zildjian" cymbals, after years of competing with each other as A. Zildjian and K. Zildjian Istanbul. These were made until 1979 when Avedis died and Robert split from Zildjian amidst conflict with Armand. Shortly thereafter in 1981, Robert started Sabian cymbals in the Meductic Azco factory, with Kerope and his son continuing on making Sabian's early HH cymbals.
The Avedis Zildjian Company does not only make cymbals. It also makes drumsticks. The drumsticks are currently produced in Alabama and are a top choice for just about every endorser of Zildjian. The Artist Series drumsticks allow these endorsers to personalize their own drumstick, and these sticks may be sold to the public. Two of the favorite Artist Series drumsticks are those of Travis Barker and Dennis Chambers.
The Avedis Zildjian company continues to produce cymbals today in Norwell, Massachusetts. Armand Zildjian was the head of the company after Avedis’ death until his own passing in 2002. The company is now run by Armand’s daughters Craigie and Debbie Zildjian.