Introduction to Cymbal Stamp Timelines
This website offers information about the age of cymbals based on the “stamps” found on them. Cymbals are engraved with a trademark by the maker. These stamps are the only reliable way to determine the age of the cymbals. The engraved stamp cannot be erased because it is in the metal. Most other identifying information (stickers, silk screens, ink or grease pencil) fade away and disappear over time.
The date of a cymbal is important because different periods in the evolution of the modern drum set are marked by distinct acoustic potentials. These differences are available in the cymbals associated with the different eras of the drum set (grandstand, jazz, bop, big band, rock, etc.)
The old Zildjian cymbal foundry was in Constantinople, dating back to the 17th century. The earliest Zildjian cymbals with complete stamps (logo, name, trademark) use the letter “K” for Kerope Zildjian, and are marked with Constantinople as the city of origin. Click here to see a timeline of K Constantinople cymbals.
Constantinople was re-named Istanbul by the Government of Turkey in 1930. There is some argumentation about when the K Zildjian cymbals begin to be stamped with “Istanbul” and it is likely that many consumers wanted cymbals from Constantinople long after the city had changed its name. Today, K Zildjian cymbals from the Istanbul period are perhaps the most sought after vintage cymbals in the world. Click here to see a timeline of K Istanbul cymbals.
The Avedis Zildjian company started making K Zildjian cymbals in a factory in Medutic, Canada in 1977. They brought a few cymbalsmiths from Istanbul to Canada following the shutdown of the Turkish foundry. Later the operation was moved to USA. Read more about the K Zildjian cymbals from Canada and later USA.
Avedis Zildjian came to the United States and started making cymbals under the label “A Zildjian” in 1929 in Quincy, Massachusetts. These were contemporaneous with the K Zildjians from Turkey, but the styles diverge greatly. Click here to see a timeline of A Zildjian cymbals.
Before the Swish and Trash cymbals, there was the imported cymbals of China. Made from the same bronze formula as Turkish cymbals (B20), the Chinese used a completely different method to produce their cymbals. I became fascinated with the story of the oldest Chinese cymbals in vintage collections in the United States, and the Chinese Cymbal Timeline is the result. Click here to see a timeline of early Chinese cymbals imported to the US.
Vintage Italian cymbals were produced by a collective: the “Union of Italian Cymbal Manufacturers” (Italian: Unione Fabbricanti Italiani Piatti) or UFIP, under many different brands. Click here to see a timeline of Italian cymbals from the UFIP group.
The Zildjian Family (of Turkey) represents the longest running cymbal-producing lineage outside of China. Their lineage dates back to the 1600s.
In 1929, Avedis Zildjian III, moved part of the family cymbal business to Massachusetts. He took a suggestion from Jo Jones, drummer for Count Basie, and mounted cymbals on a pole creating the “hi-hat.” Another idea from Gene Kruppa, drummer for Benny Goodman, led to a big cymbal with a lot of ping called a “ride.” (Wall Street Journal, 5/31/96, p.B1)
Other identifying features
Other cymbal identifiers may be lost over time, such as stickers, ink labels, grease pencil writing, and signatures under the bell.
This website contains several embedded discussions of specific cymbal timelines, beyond this introductory front page. Visitors are welcome to post comments, though they are reviewed for quality and relevance. Comments purely aimed at pricing random cymbals will generally not be approved unless contributes to the discussion of cymbal dating practices.