While attempting to create gold by combining base metals, Avedis I, an Armenian alchemist living in Constantinople discovered an alloy of copper, tin, and traces of silver with unique sound qualities. In 1618, Avedis used his secret alloy to create cymbals of spectacular clarity and power. The sound of the instruments was so extraordinary that the Sultan invited Avedis to live at court (Topkapi Palace) to make cymbals for the Sultan’s elite Janissary Bands.
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 acknowledges Avedis to be the founder of the craft of Turkish cymbal making. In appreciation, the Sultan 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 was granted permission to leave the palace in order to start his own business in a suburb of Constantinople named Psamatia.
That same business is now nearly four centuries old and has been passed down to Zildjian heirs for fifteen generations. Relocating to America in 1929, Avedis III moved the Zildjian factory to Quincy, MA and then to its current location in Norwell, MA for Zildjian’s 350th Anniversary. The business passed to Avedis’ son, Armand in 1977 and then to Armand’s daughter, Craigie, in 1999. Currently, Craigie and her sister Debbie continue the family tradition in what is recognized as the oldest family-owned business in America.
- The Avedis Zildjian Company. (n.d.). ZILDJIAN’S HISTORICAL BACKGROUND. Retrieved from zildjian.com.