A few years ago, while Los Angeles–based jeweler Martin Katz was showing his collection in Monaco, a client who wished to see important diamonds summoned Katz to his yacht late one evening. Katz found the man immersed in the vessel’s hot tub. The client promptly offered Katz a swimsuit and invited him and his cache of rare stones to join him. "It was the most unusual place where I’ve made a sale," recalls Katz, who sold a 20-carat diamond during the late-night soak.
This level of personalized service is not unusual for Katz. On another occasion, he finished a specially commissioned, six-figure-priced necklace the day before Mother’s Day and had a staff member fly overnight from Los Angeles to New York at the request of a loyal client, who greeted the staffer outside his house in a bathrobe at the crack of dawn to receive the piece in time for the holiday. Long-term relationships with clients such as this—and the understanding that arises out of that intimacy—have enabled Katz’s business to flourish over the past two decades. Rather than follow trends and dictate styles, he carefully observes his clients’ changing lifestyles and interests to create fine jewelry that is not only beautiful but also personally relevant.
"The days of elaborate diamond-dripping pieces are gone," says Katz, a fit, middle-aged man with piercing light-blue eyes. "It is not about the price tag; it’s about relatability. They’ll spend the $500,000 if they relate to the piece. These are people with real personal style who are looking for the unusual, but not necessarily flashy."
To strike this balance, Katz is currently using more uncommon gemstone varieties in rare colors and shapes. "My designs are more daring, colorful, and playful," he says of his evolving design vernacular, which favors playful paradoxes of color and shape. For instance, a pair of extra-large, half-moon-shaped, cognac-colored, diamond-slice earrings captures the mystic glow of arched stained-glass windows, while the setting of a large Australian black-opal ring contrasts green tsavorites with amethyst stones.
Katz began his career 20 years ago as a vintage-jewelry dealer in a Beverly Hills salon; when his supply of high-quality antique examples began to diminish, he designed his own pieces to reflect the same craftsmanship and attention to detail that characterize the most important signed vintage jewels. In developing his designs, Katz selects stones from a worldwide network of resources that he has carefully cultivated over the years. Recent acquisitions include a 30-carat, turquoise blue Paraíba tourmaline; a 12-carat fire opal; and several exceptional-quality red spinels.
After selecting the stones, Katz develops rough sketches and then collaborates with a Parisian artist who renders them in watercolor. After Katz’s approval, the detailed illustrations are delivered along with the gemstones to his European workshop, where the jewelry is forged—but not without some further tinkering by Katz. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, the jeweler has been known to continue refining and rethinking pieces, even after they have been completed, to achieve his vision.
Although the preferences and personalities of his clients drive his art, Katz’s own perspective also manifests itself in his designs. "There is a sex appeal that comes with jewelry that a man can understand," he says, "because men know what they like to see on a woman."
Martin Katz, 310.276.7200, www.martinkatz.com