The Riesz transform is a natural multi-dimensional extension of the Hilbert transform, and it has been the object of study for many years due to its nice mathematical properties. More recently, the Riesz transform and its variants have been used to construct complex wavelets and steerable wavelet frames in higher dimensions. The flip side of this approach, however, is that the Riesz transform of a wavelet often has slow decay. One can nevertheless overcome this problem by requiring the original wavelet to have sufficient smoothness, decay, and vanishing moments. In this paper, we derive necessary conditions in terms of these three properties that guarantee the decay of the Riesz transform and its variants, and as an application, we show how the decay of the popular Simoncelli wavelets can be improved by appropriately modifying their Fourier transforms. By applying the Riesz transform to these new wavelets, we obtain steerable frames with rapid decay.