The iconic jewellery designer Maria Tash founded her brand in New York back in 1993, and has since garnered a fanbase that includes the likes of Rihanna, Kate Moss and Maggie Gyllenhaal, all devout followers of her carefully curated piercing manifesto. Tash’s style of wear looks to layers of pavé cuts and ear-hugging hoops, all stacked atop one another in delicate and punkish formations that give the finger to ‘less is more’.
In her latest collection – and first mens-focused offering – Tiger’s Eye, the designer unearths a rougher side of design with jagged, punky finishes, gold bases and earth-toned gems. She centres it all around the sandy gemstone of the same name, a vision of chatoyant beauty, meaning the gem possesses sharp lines of light that oft resembles a beady cat’s eye. And of course, what fiercer cat-eye is there than that of a roaring tiger? It symbolises strength, ferocity, and above all, a wildness about the wearer, which Tash splices down into refined appendages that move in unison with the body, turning heads with envy and admiration at every turn.
Below, Tash explains the significance of these gems and the taxing process of designing, whilst also delving into memories of the late 80s punk scene in New York that inspired the collection.
Bailey Slater: Do you remember the first piece of jewellery that held sentimental value for you?
Maria Tash: I love a gold star bracelet worn by my grandmother and I have childhood memories of her kneading Armenian dishes with that bracelet making a comforting repetitive noise as she toiled in the kitchen as a master.
BS: Could you tell us about the process behind each design, how long does a collection or commission take?
MT: Collections can take years and are a culmination of a lot of tweaking, building, and perfecting. I aim to release thoughtful collections of luxury products that build on the Maria Tash foundation, but also introduce fresh, very elevated and interesting pieces. I’ve always been focused on the balance between a piece that’s timeless and can be worn over years, across generations, with one that is also modern and current. I want to bring something new to the customer: unexpected stone cuts, perfected mechanisms and innovative setting techniques.
“[I was] inspired by street culture involving the goth and punk music scenes of Manhattan in the 80s as well as my first trip to London in the late 80s.”
BS: Why did you decide to lean into men’s jewellery with the Tiger’s Eye capsule?
MT: I don’t design with gender in mind and my stores have never separated jewellery into male and female assortments. I think this stems from a background in the body jewellery world where men and women were equally interested and equally pierced, especially in the 90s. I focus on designs I would love to see come to life, and what is functional, comfortable, and beautiful. Each piece of jewellery is ultimately unique to the wearer. It’s not about masculinity or femininity, it’s about personal style and how one resonates with each piece.
“I have fond memories of tiger’s eye incorporated into beads for body jewellery in the 90s.”
BS: Why did you choose Tiger’s Eye for this collection? What properties of the stone did you want to showcase and explore?
MT: I have fond memories of tiger’s eye incorporated into beads for body jewellery in the 90s. It’s a subtle yet captivating stone with rich hues ranging from beige to dark brown. Browns are great for daily wear and are gender-neutral, so tiger’s eye can work for nearly everyone. I also set all the new collection in yellow gold to bring out the colour variations and cut the eye horizontally to ensure it moves in sync with the wearer.
BS: There’s a real punk element to the designs, what were you thinking about when you first sketched the collection?
MT: I grew up in suburban Long Island in New York, and was inspired by street culture involving the goth and punk music scenes of Manhattan in the 80s as well as my first trip to London in the late 80s. It was an exciting time in fashion and music culture. I began to mentally integrate the liberating asymmetric fashion looks in the punk and goth scene with the best of historical jewellery references, which started me on my journey of developing my own style and creating something new in the piercing world.
BS: Finally, what’s your favourite stone to work with?
Shop the Maria Tash Tiger’s Eye collection here.