Zarig Baghdadlian believes in striving to be the best possible version of yourself, which is a mantra I can really get behind. When I met the second-generation jeweller, whose father is a respected manufacturer of colourless and fancy-colour diamonds, there was a sense of meeting a kindred spirit who believes in empowerment, positivity and the benefits of surrounding oneself with beautiful, uplifting things. In our conversation, we spanned the origins of her brand, the hurdles she overcame during the pandemic, and the core collections that are the foundations of her ‘beautiful, everyday’ approach to adornment.
If you visit the brand’s website, you’ll notice a balance of colourful statement pieces for cocktail occasions and more demure, stackable designs that transition from day to night. What I love is that ZARIG can provide something for every moment in the day – business meetings, lunch with friends, evening affairs, black tie occasions – a sort of fine jewellery partner who you can rely on. This is a clever strategy for a young brand when there’s so much competition out there, don’t you think? And even when there’s an explosion of colourful gemstones and a playful finish, like in the Aurelia Cascade earrings, Zarig always puts quality and craftsmanship at the forefront.
Before I share the highlights of my conversation with Zarig, it’s important to know her background – she’s a fascinating woman in her own right! She’s a GIA-certified gemologist, studied Art Business in London, has a passion for female artists, and has a degree in Fashion Merchandising from LIM College in New York and a master’s degree in art, law, and business through Christie’s in London. She also worked for her family business as a director of operations and design consultant, handling day-to-day operations in New York and travelling extensively to Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Geneva. No wonder she believes that jewellery shouldn’t be saved for special occasions but should be “worn as an emblem of confidence and a daily reminder of individual potential”!
Katerina Perez: What are the origins of your brand?
Zarig Baghdadlian: My father and his older brothers started with a small atelier in the Middle East, and in the 1970s, my father came to New York City and decided to set down his roots here in America. I loved going to work with my father ever since I was a little girl and just feasting my eyes on all the diamonds and jewellery on 47th Street. My father later became a partner at Cora Diamonds, and they cut some of the rarest and most record-breaking diamonds in the world, one of which was the Ocean Dream, which was exhibited at ‘The Splendor of Diamonds’ exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. The kinds of diamonds my father cuts now are incredibly rare and for ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI), which is why I wanted to start my own brand utilising both diamonds (small ones!) and beautiful gemstones with incredible craftsmanship.
KP: From this moment, how long did it take to make your brand a reality?
ZB: It took about a year of planning, but you know, as much as I planned, some things cannot prepare you for what's to come. I launched my brand in November 2019, four months before COVID-19, and that definitely forced me to slow down and get creative! It’s been four magical years.
KP: How did COVID-19 impact the launch of your brand?
ZB: The lockdown forced me to get incredibly creative. I was staying at my parents’ house outside Manhattan, and just being surrounded by nature, trees, and flowers fuelled my creativity to another level. I would see a beautiful peony, and I would ask myself, how can I make this into a cocktail ring? Hence my Pink Peony Cocktail Ring! I’m also incredibly inspired by the modern woman who works hard, is a wife or mother and is living their dream life. During the lockdown, I had ample time to connect with my girlfriends all over the world, and they became a key source of inspiration.
KP: What I have noticed in your collections is that you create wearable and well-made daily-wear pieces alongside cocktail rings that are for special occasions. How do you strike a balance between these two categories?
ZB: I have three different collections: Refine, which is everyday diamond jewellery; Celebrate, which is colourful cocktail jewellery; and Elevate, which is inspired by my trip to Egypt and has deep symbolism. My Refine collection consists of simple yet chic everyday diamond jewellery. The way I balance out my Refine versus Celebrate collection is essentially what stones I’m using. Sleek and chic diamond designs would fall into the Refine collection as they 'refine' your everyday look. In contrast, the Celebrate collection utilises colourful gemstones and diamonds for when you want to dress up.
KP: Can you share more about the symbolism behind the Elevate collection? It seems like that’s a range with deep personal significance to you.
ZB: After visiting Egypt, I was incredibly inspired by ancient Pharaonic history and the many meanings behind the Eye of Horus, one of which is s royal power and protection. My ZARIG Jewels logo also has the shape of a pyramid within it, which represents our ability to always push ourselves to reach self-enlightenment. There’s plenty more symbolism within my Elevate collection, and I’ll share more another time!
KP: Your collections also contain transformable jewellery. Did you decide from the beginning that you wanted to create transformational and adaptable pieces?
ZB: Absolutely!! My Fortune Earrings and Cascade earrings all have removable pieces because I wanted them to have multi-purpose. I adore my cocktail earrings, but how often are you wearing ornate cocktail earrings? But if you have day-to-night earrings, then you will never take them off!
KP: Finally, who would you say is your target customer, and what makes them stand out in your eyes?
ZB: I create fine diamond and gemstone jewellery for the modern woman who loves to dress up, own beautiful things and appreciates high quality. For me, the most important thing is to make jewellery for women who want the best and know they deserve the best.
I see ZARIG Jewels as a destination for future classics, the kind of pieces that are cool now and will maintain that edge for many decades to come. Thanks to her upbringing surrounded by diamonds, Zarig has a natural eye for finery, and you can see this not only in the diamonds she selects but also in her choice of coloured gemstones too. I’m excited to see how her brand develops and how her trio of collections evolve in the future. Watch this space!