Meet the Empress of Earrings, Maria Tash

Words by
Melanie Rickey

23rd November 2022

No-one has done more for changing the way we pierce and decorate our ears than New York fine jewellery designer and piercing obsessive, Maria Tash. Her bijou pieces for ‘the curated ear’ and other parts of the body are adored by everyone from Rihanna and Zoe Kravtiz to Jennifer Lawrence. Melanie Rickey meets her to discuss how a sword owned by her mother inspired her new range.

I started my business Maria Tash in 1993 because… there wasn't a comfortable place you could get pierced in New York that felt luxurious and special. At that time jewellery for different parts of the body that required piercing didn’t feel advanced, so I began to make my own fine jewellery pieces and to pierce people myself. I knew I had a viable business when people started to come to me through Manhattan snowstorms.

When we started out, piercing studios were definitely intimidating… They were either SM oriented, or about sex, which didn’t resonate with who I was. For me, piercing is about beauty, adornment and fine materials. It also has an incredibly rich historical context across Asia, the Middle East and Africa and has been woven into culture for millennia.

Maria Tash NY
Maria Tash in Manhattan

How many piercings do I have? You know what, I don’t keep count! Wait a minute… Ok, I have 16 piercings.. on body, my septum, but mostly in my ears, where I have 12.

I am best known for ‘A Curated Ear’ which talks to the combination of multiple pieces throughout the ear for a look unique to each person…I view curating an ear as like choosing the perfect outfit, and I’ve spent the last 20 years designing intricate fine pieces that complement the shape of the ear, and also – and this is so important to me  – my designs take into account the minutiae of the positioning, whether its forward facing, angled, backward facing, and where the piece sits in combination to other piercings.

Maria Tash
Piercing Prices: Earlobe - £20. Outer Ear Cartilage (Helix) - £25. Tash Helix - £40. Tash Hidden Rook - £55. Inner Ear Cartilage (Tragus, Rook, Conch, Forward Helix Orbit) - £35. Nostril or Septum - £35. Navel or Nipple - £35.

So many lawyers told me early on that you can’t patent a piercing… they didn’t even try to look into it back then, but these days I know better.

I’ve popularised and even invented many spots for piercing on the ears… I actually did patent the Tash Helix, on the top forward curve of the ear, and the Tash Hidden Rook in the upper middle of the ear. Of course there’s also the Tash Rook, the Daith, and the Tragus, and many other spots on the ear that can be pierced.

Maria Tash Earrings
Maria Tash popularised the "curated ear"

I now have 11 store locations across the world, and I’m still 100% independent… something I’m very proud of. We went from New York to London, where we have a space at Liberty, which has been one of their most successful departments since the day it opened. We’ve also recently opened in Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and in Paris at Le Bon Marché.

I think the business is doing well because we come at jewellery in a very different way than the rest of the jewellery world does… And I say that kind of brazenly because I think that my team, and our piercers, come at it in an research and development way, as well as a fine way, using diamonds, emeralds, sapphires. We’re not looking at this like a trend because, you know, there's love, passion and craft there. We are always looking at how we can do things differently.

Maria Tash Mohawk Collection
from left, Metal Mohawk Hoop, £490, Black Moissanite Mohawk and Diamond Pavé Hoop Earring, £3,655, Metal Mohawk with Black and White Diamond Pavé Hoop Earring, £1,100

Having a piercing means a piece becomes part of you and your body… and if it’s a Maria Tash piece you are wearing gold, diamonds, precious stones, and once you buy the piece, and get pierced you have to heal, nurse, and nurture it, which is a big part of what we do. So it has a lot more significance.

I had a mohawk in the 80s, but my new Mohawk collection is based around three distinct ‘spike’ designs…the first is inspired by a pair of heels I own, another by decorative daggers, and the third a sword owned by my mother. We worked for months to create the right sculptural planes for both front and back so they work from every angle. I get very involved in the detail: is it beautiful? Does the proportion work? Can be worn comfortably?

Maria Tash
Maria Tash Earrings

I listen to Eckhart Tolle and Michael Singer on YouTube to send me to sleep at night… and I just downloaded this app that will turn it off after like 30 minutes. You have to have that stuff turned off, or else in the middle that you're going to wake up all crazy, right?

My guiltiest pleasure is that I shop, a lot… I love the VIP treatment that I get from certain brands because I've bought so much from them. Elie Saab, Loro Piana, Zuhair Murad, Alexander McQueen. I have a lot of major gowns.

When I’m not running my business, you’ll find me.. eating out in my New York neighbourhood, I’m a big fan of Greek food.

The next project on my mind…is an app I’ve been working on for five years. Watch this space!

Discover Maria Tash

Maria Tash has piercing studios in London at Liberty London and Harrods