Dries Criel spent the majority of his life in a ballet studio. Until the age of seventeen, his world revolved around classical and modern dance. Living and dancing in Antwerp, one of the world’s diamond hubs, Criel ended up taking a summer job working as a student for a diamond dealer. Unsure of where that summer job would lead him, he knew he had always gravitated toward the beauty and craftsmanship of things, and soon realized he had another passion: natural diamonds.
Criel creates genderless designs with elements of Ancient Egypt that connect to his life as a dancer. “The many hours at the barre have inevitably left their mark on the fluid shapes and lines that I employ,” he said. “My creations also contain hints of Ancient Egypt and its many symbols: lotus motifs, a rising sun, pyramids, the horns of the fertility goddess Hathor, and even the profile of Anubis as a logo,” he added.
For Criel, natural diamonds are at the forefront of his work. “There is nothing more inspiring than looking into an old mine diamond and wondering how many human lives have been touched by it, in one way or another.” He added three words, “Authenticity, tradition, and symbolism.”
His Lotus Collection was inspired by the fans that were used back in Ancient Egypt, which was a symbol of protection. All his jewelry is set in gold, using natural diamonds, precious stones, and hand-painted enamel. Each piece is handmade in Belgium with fully traceable raw materials back to their source.
Criel has always been fascinated by Egypt, saying “It’s my absolute obsession to bring out the hidden Cleopatra in people. I find it a fun challenge to tap into that energy.” Continuing, “Cleopatra is a mystery: nothing is more inspiring to me than a strong, exuberant man or woman who is also very mysterious.” He added, “People with their own story, who don’t need to shout loudly. Individuals with layers and intellect that offer much to discover. She knew how to combine her glamor and bold looks, an absolute expression of her personality, with that quiet side. I find that very intriguing.”
Jewelry has always held a special place in Criel’s heart, saying “A piece of jewelry can reveal so much about a person and at the same time give power and personality to the wearer. More than any other object, I believe, jewelry can celebrate freedom. A value we should all cherish.”
Through his designs, Criel says, “People underestimate how much a piece of jewelry can reveal about their character, and I love to encourage that in my customers: to radiate strength and personality without becoming arrogant.”
On his Instagram page, the message “Ni Dieu Ni Maître” is seen throughout, to which Criel said, “Meaning jewelry that celebrates the divine in people, free to be and believe what they want. A message that is beautifully conveyed through mythological references and restrained exuberance.”
In terms of what comes first when getting dressed in the morning, jewelry or clothes, Criel responded, “The best look for me? Jewelry only.”