Zildjian cymbals have been a staple of percussion instruments for centuries and have gained immense popularity in the modern music industry. Due to changes in manufacturing techniques, vintage cymbals are often sought out by serious performers and collectors, but identifying older Zildjian cymbals is often challenging.
Check the stamp. All Zildjian cymbals have a trademark stamp that identifies them as such. This stamp makes it easy to quickly tell if a cymbal was manufactured by the Zildjian company and usually provides a little info about the origin of the cymbal (such as A Zildjian, K Zildjian, made in USA, made in Turkey). There are many different stamps and some can be used to date the cymbals, but this method alone is not completely reliable.
Check for a painted logo. Some cymbals have the Zildjian logo painted directly on the cymbal. Often the paint may have worn away but traces of it can still be seen with a close examination. If a Zildjian cymbal has a painted logo on its surface, it was almost certainly manufactured after 1980 and is not a vintage cymbal.
Check the weight and density of the cymbal. During the 1960s, the company experienced a boom due in part to Ringo Starr's use of the Zildjian brand and amateur rockers around the world began playing with these cymbals. Louder music and electric amplifiers meant that cymbals needed to be thicker and heavier to withstand harder playing. Vintage Zildjian cymbals will generally be much lighter and thinner than modern counterparts.
Inspect the tonal grooves. When the company began to use more mass production techniques to meet higher demands, the cymbals became much more consistent in weight and size. The lathing techniques used to make the tonal grooves of modern cymbals also created more consistent patterns on the cymbals. On vintage cymbals, look for small inconsistencies that occurred due to a more hands-on manufacturing process. It is essentially these inconsistencies that give the vintage cymbals their individual character and make them prized by collectors.
Consider all the instrument's features together to really get an idea of the age of a cymbal. By comparing the weight, stamp, condition, general shape and bell style to known examples of vintage Zildjian cymbals, an approximate age can usually be determined. Dating these instruments is not always precise, rather, it is an art that takes some experience.