We have investigated a water-stable sol–gel method based on ethylene glycol as a solvent and bridging ligand for the synthesis of ferroelectric lead zirconate titanate in bulk and thin film forms. This method offers lower toxicity of the solvent, higher stability toward atmospheric moisture and a simplified synthetic procedure compared to traditional sol–gel methods. However, the piezoelectric properties of products produced using this method have yet to be systematically studied. We have measured the ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties and compared them to existing literature using different synthesis techniques. Ceramic pellets of Nb-doped lead zirconate titanate (PNZT) in the tetragonal phase were produced with high density and good piezoelectric properties, comparable to those reported in the literature and those found in commercial piezoelectric elements. In addition, a nine-layer thin film stack was fabricated by spin coating onto platinized silicon substrates. The films were crack-free and showed a perovskite grain structure with a weak (111) orientation. Piezoelectric measurements of the film showed a piezoelectric coefficient comparable to literature values and good stability toward fatigue.