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Created in 1618 by Avedis Zildjian as he was looking for a way to turn base metal into gold, an alloy combining tin, copper and silver resulted in a metal that could make musical sounds without shattering. Zildjian founded the company in 1623, though the details of the main product remained secret for generations. It became family tradition that only the company's heirs would know the manufacturing process. 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, in competition with the K. Zildjian Company in Turkey. Avedis made many innovations in cymbals that are still around today, such as being first to develop drum-set cymbals and gave cymbals names such as ride, crash, splash, and hi-hat. Avedis III's son Armand Zildjian began hand-selecting cymbals for all the top drummers of the time. It was his close personal relationships with the top drummers and percussionists of the day on which Zildjian still bases its Artist Relations Department. In 1968, the K. Zildjian Co. and all European trademarks were bought back on behalf of the Avedis Zildjian Co.
In early 1977, Armand Zildjian was appointed President of the Avedis Zildjian Company by his father. 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.