In the world of fine jewelry, some are born into it, inheriting a legacy of craftsmanship and design passed down through generations. Then there are those like Tariq Riaz, whose journey into the world of jewelry is as unexpected as it is remarkable. I had the privilege of sitting down with Tariq, a jewelry designer who went from a career in technology to creating some of the most innovative and mesmerizing pieces of jewelry you will likely see.
Tariq’s story begins far from the glittering world of diamonds and precious metals. He pursued a degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona, followed by a career in the technology sector, including stints at tech giants and the United States Air Force. His journey was firmly rooted in the realm of algorithms and code, far from the creative sphere of jewelry. However, fate had other plans.
An opportunity in the tech sector led him to Abu Dhabi, a place he had never even visited before. Tariq tells me that people had mistaken him for Middle Eastern his whole life, although he had never been, so he decided this opportunity was an excellent chance to check it out. It was in Abu Dhabi that his path took an unexpected turn.
While expecting their first child, Tariq’s wife had a problem with her wedding band. Her fingers were swelling, and the ring no longer fit. She said jokingly, “You got on one knee, and you said till death do us part, and to signify that you give me a ring that doesn’t even fit me three years into it.” Tariq, trying to save himself, said he would take the ring to their local jeweler to be resized. His wife refused, telling him that her fingers would return to normal after the baby was born, to which Tariq said he would just get it resized again. He had no jewelry experience, so his wife said, “You can’t just size it up and then size it back down, and again, etc.; it’s bad for the ring.” It seemed there was no perfect solution. Little did he know this seemingly ordinary situation experienced by couples everywhere would ignite a passion that would change his life.
Tariq is not one to give up, and I can easily see in our time together that he loves a challenge and thrives on solving unique problems. In that vein, he took the ring to his office and began to think about how he, with no jewelry knowledge or experience at all, would reimagine the ring. “How could I make a ring that would fit forever?” Tariq thought. He began experimenting with jewelry design, sketching, carving things out of clay, and using his CAD (computer-aided design) experience and 3D printing skills. He relished a challenge: “I cannot even explain to you; I felt like it was the purpose I was created for; I mean, I just never enjoyed something this much.” He told me in his head the designs worked, but in reality, he didn’t know how to materialize them.
Tariq’s journey continued when he encountered hurdles in finding a manufacturer who could bring his creations to life, as breaking into the fine jewelry space is a challenging task. Fueled by his determination, he spoke to a skilled jewelry artisan in Bali while on a trip with his wife. After much back and forth, this jeweler helped him realize his first prototype.
Fast forward a year and a half from that first conversation with his wife, and his idea was now a stunning piece of jewelry. Tariq presented it to his wife, which marked the beginning of a new chapter in their life. Their daughter had long been born at this point, so he told his wife when she eventually passed the ring down to their daughter, she would no longer need a jeweler to size it. His wife, recognizing his newfound passion, encouraged him to pursue it further. She said, “I’ve never seen this side of you. You are glowing from passion. Why don’t you take some time off work and follow this? I don’t want to sit with some old guy one day who’s talking about coulda, woulda, shoulda, you know, why don’t you take a step?.” Tariq took the step, and then the real journey started.
Tariq rented a small space in Abu Dhabi, began buying the necessary tools, and started working. He didn’t sell a single piece in his first three years, although he had offers. The time was used for research and development to execute the perfect versions of his vision. He hired one employee, then two, and eventually built the team that now turns his designs into reality. Tariq’s defining creation is his expandable jewelry—the solution to the problem that sparked his entire business. Using innovative materials and construction, he crafted pieces that could change in size to accommodate different wearers. Having worn the rings myself, I can tell you the same ring will comfortably fit every one of my fingers.
Tariq’s dedication to perfecting his craft led to multiple awards and recognition within the jewelry industry. He poured his heart and soul into creating unique pieces that defied convention. Despite this success, he remains humble and open to learning. He acknowledges that he is still an outsider in the jewelry industry, still learning its intricacies. He’s willing to make mistakes and take risks, and that fearless attitude has driven him to create some truly extraordinary pieces. With all of Tariq’s creations, there is more than what’s on the surface. Whether it’s expandability, transformability, or downright magic, you get more than you expect.
One such example is his “Duality Collection.” These rings are not just adornments; they’re interactive art. Using his patented technology, the central gems change with a simple move of the hand, offering a dynamic and ever-evolving experience for the wearer that genuinely looks like a magic trick.
Tariq had another piece I had been waiting months to see in person after hearing stories about it. The diamond necklace, entitled ‘Tipsy,’ is one-of-a-kind and was inspired by his daughter, who is now in fifth grade. She told her Dad that she wanted to be a writer, and this sparked a conversation where he explained some of the histories of female writers who were forced to use pseudonyms in order to sell their books. Typewriters came up in the conversation, and he showed her an old typewriter he had stored away. The discussion led to an idea for the father of two daughters to create a piece of diamond jewelry that celebrated female writers and the progress we have made as a society. The resulting haute couture jewelry piece, many months in the making, is nothing short of extraordinary. The design is based on a typewriter with 31 white gold keys draped around the neck and fully set with 22.60 carats of natural diamonds. The center of the keys glows with color and changes color depending on your direction. That may already sound like magic, but the real magic is that the keys work like an actual typewriter. Instead of individual letters, each key pens a different word of female empowerment. The sizable necklace is suspended by a black silk ribbon, just like the ink ribbon in a typewriter, and adorned with diamond-set buckles to adjust the length. It is truly one of the most memorable pieces of jewelry design I have seen.
Tariq has shown that even in a field where he initially had no knowledge, his commitment to pushing boundaries and creating something unique has set him apart. As our conversation continued, Tariq revealed plans for the future that promises to disrupt the jewelry industry further. His innovative thinking and drive for perfection are poised to reshape our perception of what jewelry can be. In a world where fashion knows no bounds, Tariq Riaz is a testament to the limitless possibilities of jewelry design. His groundbreaking creations challenge conventions and celebrate the intersection of technology and artistry. In Tariq’s world, the future of adornment is limited only by the boundaries of imagination.