Owner and Designer, Martin Katz
The cases at Martin Katz Vintage and Contemporary Jewelers in Beverly Hills are ablaze with color: Burmese rubies, emeralds, Imperial jade and Kashmir sapphires, stones that are collected and coveted all over the world. Even more dazzling though is Katz’s collection of jewelry featuring exotic colored stones: rings and pendants set with pink or vibrant purple sapphires, framed with tiny diamonds; rare Paraiba tourmalines in a hypnotic shade of neon blue; and other diamonds in shades of black, canary yellow, pink and ethereal blues. These are gems that many people have never seen before, and many may never have imagined existed.
“I don’t like to work with anything that is too common,” reflects Martin Katz. “I want to work with the finest specimens, even when I am working with tsavorite garnet or tourmaline or other stones some people consider ‘semi-precious.’ Some people misinterpret high price as high quality.”
Katz got his start as a dealer, handling the finest examples of antique and vintage jewelry. As first-class antiques became more and more scarce, he began designing his own original pieces in the spirit of the classics, developing a design aesthetic that is strongly influenced by the past—Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco—without imitating it.
“It’s not contemporary in the sense that most people think of it,” explains Katz’s associate, Jay Carlile. “It doesn’t have the modernist sensibility. There’s a transparency to Martin’s designs; his jewelry doesn’t have the bulk of a lot of modern jewelry.”
Lightness is a defining characteristic of much of Martin Katz’s jewelry: superb stones in finely wrought, open settings of platinum or white gold, sprinkled with micro-pavé diamonds, allowing the central stones to be displayed without distraction. Katz describes it as “new jewelry with an old soul.”
“I’m very attracted to the Belle Époque period,” he continues. “It was a happy period in history, and the jewelry reflected that. I also love the geometry of Art Deco: I love the classic pieces by Cartier and LaCloche Frères. I am inspired by those designs, but I don’t try to copy them; it wouldn’t be authentic. I have too much respect for vintage jewels to try to copy them.”
Katz himself is responsible for all of his company’s designs. He begins with a drawing. “I do a basic sketch in pencil,” he explains of his process. “I have some artists who work with me to translate my intentions.” Each one-of-a-kind design is fabricated in Europe by artisans working in the time-honored techniques of the classic jewelry makers.
The results are breathtaking: an eight-carat Burmese ruby framed by vintage, rose-cut diamonds with a surprise on the reverse: a field of pavé rubies set in blackened gold, giving the piece a greater depth and gravitas. A straight-line bracelet of marquise and Asscher-cut diamonds, each D-colored and internally flawless, is stunning in its simplicity of design, fire and flash.
There is a purity of purpose to Martin Katz’s work; he doesn’t create sunglasses or perfumes or handbags like many other renowned jewelry companies. He focuses his energy and creativity solely on fine jewelry, objects of art to adorn beautiful women. “Anytime I am holding a beautiful gem,” he says, “it becomes my favorite.”