Martin Katz (b. 1956) Every generation has its ‘Jeweler To The Stars.’ During the 20th Century, Harry Winston and Paul Flato were often identified with that sobriquet alongside their name. In the 21st Century, the phrase is often applied to Martin Katz.
He is an American jewelry designer and collector whose pieces have graced the stars of Hollywood’s Red Carpet for nearly two decades. His work has been highlighted in countless fashion spreads and celebrity photo shoots for magazines such as Vogue, W, and InStyle. Katz is also known for giving vintage and classic styles a modern edge.
Born in South Bend, Indiana, Katz is the fourth of five children. He began his career as an undergraduate student at Indiana University selling silver jewelry to his classmates.
In an undated interview with Elite Traveler, he recalled, “I started selling silver jewelry to sorority girls while at Indiana University. It was really just a way to tap into the student wealth. I was writing a lot of checks to the University for books … health and bus passes and classes and I thought “this university has a racket, all these kids come from home with a lot of money and they can’t be the only ones benefiting.” I tried to figure out what I could sell to the student body and a roommate of mine said “my brother sells silver, turquoise, and ivory out of Denver. Maybe we could buy some of his pieces and start selling”, so we got him on the phone. I borrowed a couple hundred dollars from my little brother who still had his paper route money and I bought into this business that turned out to be successful for a number of years.”
After graduating with a psychology degree in 1978, his first significant position in the jewelry industry was with Laykin et Cie in Los Angeles, a jeweler inside the then prominent I. Magnin specialty stores.
Renowned for his exquisite taste and eye for transforming stones into artistic creations, Katz founded his eponymous company in 1988. The company, Martin Katz, Ltd quickly gained an international reputation with a clientele that included Forbes 400 business leaders, US Ambassadors, and other affluent individuals and celebrity collectors. The firm’s slogan: ‘Jewelry. Like No Other.’
Katz began by making house calls to his few clients or inviting them into in his home. The panoramic view from his Beverly Hills penthouse apartment was the ideal complement to what Vogue dubbed the “Jewel Bar”. His first retail store opened in Beverly Hills in 1998. Shortly thereafter he created a private New York City showroom on Madison Avenue.
Katz has been most lauded (and copied) for his pioneering work with micro-pave settings. The most famous of these are his microbands. Hand set with diamonds and/or gemstones under a microscope in his European workshop, each band is only the thickness of a nylon string.
Martin’s passion for gems has earned him wide acclaim for designing beautifully-crafted, couture-quality pieces inspired by his love of vintage jewelry – contemporary pieces with an ‘old soul’ as he calls them.
Each piece is one-of-a-kind or limited in production, signed, numbered and made with painstaking attention to detail. His work has been auctioned at Christie’s and Sotheby’s with prices being significantly higher than the original price they sold for in his salon.
Becoming a designer wasn’t part of Katz’s original plan. “Designing came out of filling a void for clients seeking a specific piece to round out a vintage collection. I’d say, ‘If we could make one, we’d take the top of this one and the shape of that one.’ That’s how it all started.”
Katz’s reputation grew, and before long, his contemporary designs were selling better than the vintage ones. “I still sell vintage jewelry, he says, “but now I’m more of a collector.”
In the Elite Traveler interview, Katz described his focus and techniques. “Though inspired by vintage jewelry, our contemporary designs have become 95% of our business. I believe in creating diamond jewelry with a young, fresh look—I call them young diamonds—to appeal to a younger eye who don’t have a problem with price tags but instead the relatability of style. In the early 2000s “bling” was very popular, but since the 2008 collapse, subtle, chic sophistication has come back into style. As the wind comes back into the sails for everyone post-recession, however, the appetite—though the money was always there—for this kind of jewelry has come back. With that, as with any business, it gets a little more exciting and we can get a little more creative.”
Katz has not limited his work to necks, wrists, ears, and fingers. In recent years he has dabbled in fashion. In 2007 he collaborated with Renee Strauss to create the world’s most expensive wedding dress. With 150 carats of diamonds and a $12 million price tag, the dress was first shown at the Luxury Brands Lifestyle Bridal Show in February 2006.
Martin Katz also continues to be well known for his luxury collaborations. Early on Ray-Ban contracted him to design jeweled sunglasses, which Celine Dion wore on the red carpet.
In 2008, Victoria’s Secret approached Katz to design their Fantasy Bra. He designed a $5 million bra named the “Black Diamond Fantasy Miracle Bra.” The bra, worn by supermodel Adriana Lima on the runway, was set with 3,575 black diamonds, 117 certified one-carat round diamonds, and 34 rubies. The two black diamond drops totaled 100 carats. Valued at over $5 million, the bra carried more than 1500 carats.
Katz was one of four jewelers chosen to design wedding bands for NBC’s 2009 edition of Today Throws a Wedding. He also provided the engagement ring used on the famous Will & Grace episode, “Marry Me a Little, Marry Me a Little More”, in which Leo (Harry Connick, Jr.) proposes to Grace (Debra Messing) in New York City’s Central Park.
In 2011, Donna Karan asked Martin Katz to design the first million-dollar fragrance bottle for her DKNY Golden Delicious scent. The bottle was a 14-karat, yellow and white gold apple-shape featuring 2,700 white diamonds, 183 yellow sapphires in the shape of the Manhattan skyline and a 2.43-carat yellow canary diamond that toured the world.
Recently, Martin Katz entered into an association for watches and launched a collaboration with F.P. Journe, one of today’s premier watchmakers. The association (which was the only watch brand Katz wanted to carry when he opened his store) began when Katz met him in Switzerland and told him he wasn’t carrying watches but wanted to carry Journe’s line.
He confesses that he did that because he personally wanted one of the Journe watches and, at the time, they were hard to get anywhere except directly.
The first watch Katz acquired was a tourbillon he collected from Journe in 1999. It was one of the master watchmaker’s originals and became a Katz pride and joy.
He has also collected Patek for years and his most recent acquisition is an older one that they stopped making a while ago. Katz says he’s looking to add another F.P. Journe to his collection.
The chronograph on the watch counts a 100th of a second and Journe was able to create a gearing mechanism unlike any other. It stops exactly on the 100th of a second every time. Katz now plans to open a store with Journe at which point he won’t carry them at his location because he expects to be a partner at the FP Journe boutique.
Martin Katz is not only passionate about collecting vintage jewelry, he also designs exquisite modern and vintage-inspired masterpieces. He is drawn to flawless diamonds, colored stones, and breathtaking designs that result in creative one-of-a-kind pieces that appeal to women of any age. He also designs cuff links for men.
Katz has decorated the Hollywood Elite for more than a quarter century including red carpet premieres, Golden Globes, Emmy Awards, and the Academy Awards. Celebrities seen wearing Martin Katz creations include Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Felicity Huffman, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston, Claire Danes, and Kim Kardashian. Each of them have appeared in the jeweler’s signature micro-pavé pieces or his vintage treasures at some of the most important moments of their careers.
Nicole Kidman donned Mogul Indian earrings at the 1997 Academy Awards which she attended with Tom Cruise. At the 2006 Academy Awards, Felicity Huffman wore a diamond Gardenia brooch.
Sandra Bullock wore black spinel briolette earrings and a gold bangle to the premiere of her film “Gravity” at the 70th annual Venice Film Festival.
Kate Winslet wore an Edwardian diamond necklace at the 1996 Academy Awards and Jennifer Aniston was outfitted in platinum and diamond drop earrings with emerald-cut diamonds hanging horizontally and a stack of platinum and diamond line bracelets at the 2004 Golden Globe Awards.
Jessica Biel wore Katz’s earrings at her wedding to Justin Timberlake.
Other stars adorned in Martin Katz creations include Salma Hayek, Cate Blanchett, Anne Heche, Heidi Klum., Sandra Bullock, Sally Field, Barbra Streisand, Ashley Judd, Johnny Depp, Mark Wahlberg, and Colin Firth.
Having been one of the first to lend jewels to the stars on the Red Carpet, Katz opened the door for many others to do it, too. Los Angeles Magazine wrote, “[Katz] has taken on Tinseltown like a fairy gem father, adorning stars with glittering rocks for their time in the spotlight and no doubt making such establishment jewelers as Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier turn green with envy in the process.”
Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness, are also collectors. “Katz, says Jackman, “creates unique, individual, elegant pieces,” while Furness adds, “I see jewelry from all over the world, but I always come back to the refined, eclectic pieces that Martin Katz offers.”
Articles about Martin Katz’s jewelry are regularly published and many of his spectacular pieces have adorned the covers of Vogue, W, Town & Country, People, Elle, and InStyle magazines.
Today, Martin Katz jewelry is sold exclusively at his Beverly Hills boutique and in the famous and fine department store, Bergdorf Goodman, in New York City.