Meet The Maker: Q & A with Hiba Husayni of Zahn-Z Jewelry

    Next up in our Meet The Maker series is Hiba Husayni, the incredibly talented and endlessly imaginative designer behind Zahn-Z Fine Jewelry. She's the creator of some of our most-stalked rings and her irresistible ideas just keep coming. If you're ever lusted after Pixie Dust or obsessed over Dream Fairy, you know Hiba's design magic. Keep reading to learn more about her move from Syria to NYC, her technology-first design process, and how childhood games become jewelry in the mythical mind of Hiba.

    Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you love to do?

    I was born and raised in Syria, and I moved to NYC (where I live now) during the Syrian war. I'm an equestrian and a cat person. I love to paint – I get inspiration from buildings, nature, and almost anything in the world around me. I like to put my Arabic background in my paintings – you can find little Arabic words sprinkled throughout. I love to travel – recently to Turkey, Italy, France, Costa Rica, Egypt, and Saudia Arabia. All beautiful and very interesting spots to visit. 

    When did you start loving jewelry?

    When my parents went out at night, my mom was always covered in fabulous jewelry. I would sneak into her room to see all the treasures she was pulling out of the box. It’s funny though, while the jewels were amazing, I was most interested in how they were put together – how that massive diamond could stay in place with just a few tiny pieces of metal. I would inspect each piece to figure out how they were made. 

    Hiba Husayni

    How did you decide to take the leap as a Designer?  

    I wanted to do jewelry from the beginning, but in our culture, you’re encouraged towards a more traditional career path – a teacher, lawyer, doctor, or engineer. So, I chose a degree in architecture because it’s still considered legitimate in my family but is also close to art.

    When the war started in Syria, I thought ‘you only live once’, and knew I had to go all in with jewelry. Also, there was no career path in architecture at that time – the country was being destroyed.

    First, I moved to Egypt to take an advanced jewelry course, and later I moved to NYC where I started working a lot with CAD design. The CAD side of jewelry ties together so many things I love - my architecture background, my interest in technology, and my love of art.

    We were very lucky to move to the U.S. when we did.

    What’s your favorite ring you’ve made for Gem Breakfast?

    I love the Magnum Opus ring.It was inspired by the baroque style of architecture – it’s very detailed with a kind of European energy. That blue sapphire is just stunning – it looks like the ocean with its many shades of blue, and the whitepavé diamonds surround it like the bubbling surf.

    Catherine loves stackable rings so I designed this one to be stackable to give people more options for mixing and matching.

    You speak alot about women’s empowerment – tell us about what that means to you?

    In my culture, women aren't given the opportunity to see the world, find themselves, and pursue whatever lights them up. It's not like here in the U.S. - women are still fighting for basic rights over there.

    Thankfully my parents were very open-minded and wanted us to focus on our careers and passions rather than exclusively on marriage and kids. That is not the norm however, and I try to help women who aren't surrounded by that kind of support to achieve the life they want.

    Where do you find inspiration?

    Most of my designs are inspired by architecture or nature. Sometimes it’s a building, the texture in tree bark, or the shape of a pine nut. One of my designs was inspired by a pineapple – I loved how the layers were stacked on top of each other. Another design was inspired by a cocoon – I made amazing, dangling diamond earrings to resemble it. Or jellyfish – they’re magical, I’m always inspired when I look at them.

    If it’s not an object, then the stone inspires the ring and I create a design to celebrate that stone.

    What’s your design process like from start to finish?

    1. First, I sketch. I use the Procreate app to create the overall design.

    2. Next, I design the ring in CAD. It’s a very different flow than traditional design methods – you can incorporate a lot of details in a very short time vs carving by hand. I usually create about 5 designs and print them in wax.

    3. I test the wax models on my hand, place the stone in the wax setting, and see which one design I like best. I use the wax renderings to decide on gold colors, proportions, and the overall look of the ring.

    3. Next, the rings goes for casting and stone setting.

    5. Last, is final polishing and the ring is ready to be worn!

    More is more or less is more?

    Less is more with bigger statement pieces – let them be admired as the center of attention.

    More is more with thinner stacking rings – I love a towering stack.   


    Cocoon-inspired diamond earrings


    Wax model of cocoon-inspired diamond earrings

    sketches and wax model cocoon earrings

    Wax model and sketches of cocoon-inspired diamond earrings

    pixie dust and dream fairy curved diamond stacking rings

    Let’s talk about Dream Fairy and Pixie Dust – the rings that look amazing with every ring and are beloved in the GB world.

    Pixie Dust was the first piece I made when I created Zahn-Z – I had a small budget and I wanted to create something feminine, unique, and fun with just a sprinkling of small diamonds. I started moving points and lines around in my CAD software and I ended up with Pixie Dust. It just happened and I’ve loved it ever since.

    I created Dream Fairyto go with Pixie Dust and I love how they fit together. Many people start with Pixie Dust and then come back for Dream Fairy and another Pixie Dust to complete the three ring stack. This is a good example of more is more!

    I didn’t originally design Pixie Dust to stack with other rings, but it somehow wraps perfectly around round solitaires and oval cut diamonds - an unexpectedly flawless fitting weddding band.

    How would you describe your aesthetic?

    I don’t have an aesthetic I want to stick to – I like to play with every style and make it my own. I need the freedom to be detailed, but also free form and flowy, geometric but also ornamental – I create no boundaries for myself. 

    How did you meet Cat (Gem Breakfast Founder)?

    I met her through Jenny Norman. I teach at the New York Jewelry Design Institute and Jenny was one of my students – she was brilliant. We kept in touch over the years and Jenny introduced me to Cat when she started working with her. 

    I did freelance design work for Cat before I had my own brand. Then when I started Zahn-Z, she was my first supporter. I've learned a lot from her and she's beome a friend. I still freelance for her and if I have any questions about the business or any doubts, I always reach out to her.

    I love how so many of your rings fit perfectly together. Is that on purpose?

    It’s not intentional but the styles and curves seem to line up perfectly together in the end! I Love the Braided Gold Band and Soft Serve together and of course Pixie Dust and Dream Fairy are a dream team.

    What’s your favorite ring you’ve ever designed?

    My Zaha ring – I love the bold, thick curves, the heavy metal around the stone, and how the grey spinel compliments the yellow gold. 

    What do you love about spinel?

    I love its lustre and how it shifts colors in the light. It’s an incredibly beautiful and underrated stone.

    You mention childhood nostalgia as the inspiration for some of your rings. Tell us more about that.

    I have a few rings inspired by my childhood – a candy pop ring, a ‘go fishing’ ring, and a spinning windmill ring. People love them and they’re fun to make. Many of us have shared memories of childhood so these designs bring us together and back to a carefree time in our lives.

    What jewelry do you wear every day?

    • My Zaha ring – a grey spinel set in a curvy, high-shine gold setting.
    • A pendant with my dad’s name engraved on it.
    • One of my Soft Serve rings stacked with a gold beaded ring and a Pixie Dust band.

    What’s something you wish all jewelry shoppers knew?

    The amount of behind-the-scenes effort, thought, trials, and fails required to make the final piece you see.  

    Also, to me, there is no ‘ugly’. I would love if people could appreciate any kind of art – even if it’s not their style.And, that the costs of making quality fine jewelry are very high.

    What’s one thing you’d change about the engagement ring industry?

    The basic, boring designs. People should allow themselves to explore more options than the cookie cutter designs available in the mall stores.

    Shop all Zahn-Z Fine Jewelry designs for Gem Breakfast here!

    Shop Zahn-Z Fine Jewelry at Gem Breakfast