Martin Katz is no ordinary jeweler. He is literally the Hollywood jeweler par excellence. From his pioneering Hollywood celebrity red carpet collaborations, to his inventive jewelry designs, to his stunning New York City Jewelry Suite, this luxury connoisseur has continuously leveraged his love for glamorous accessories to become one of the world’s most renowned jewelry designers. eniGma’s Mahmoud Al Badry and Engy Aly spoke to Katz about his fascinating journey, the inspirations behind his designs, and how he became the number one choice for celebrities on the red carpet.
Tell us how your jewelry adventure started.
I have childhood memories of jewelry, though I really have to dig into my memory for them. I recall visiting a jewelry store in Chicago with my sister at a very young age. I must have been all of ten years old. I had never seen such splendor, one magnificent jewel after the next. I’m sure that must have been the start of my love affair with jewelry, but I guess you could say it first started while attending college in Indiana where I sold Puka Shells on Campus. After college, I moved to California and lived on my cousin’s sofa for a couple of months while looking for work in the garment industry. Eventually, I took a job in Beverly Hills as an associate salesman at the high-end jewelry firm, Laykin et Cie. I fell in love with the vintage business. As a dealer of vintage jewelry, I started designing a few of my own pieces. Not long after, my clients were buying the pieces before they were even completed.
What’s the main inspiration behind your jewelry designs?
I am inspired by everything around me, every day there are countless inspirations no matter where I am. Certainly nature and its colors, sea life, period designs, Art Deco shapes and compositions. In my world, inspiration abounds.
How do you infuse your passion for vintage pieces in your contemporary designs?
A majority of my designs are vintage-inspired and have a vintage look, but with a modern twist. I like to put a classic spin on my designs that make them fresh and wearable.
Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry that you’ve designed?
Ahh, that’s a very difficult question for a jewelry designer to answer. If I have to pick, I once created a pair of half-moon emerald earrings, which I am still obsessed with. It started with a single large round cabochon emerald, which had an inclusion at the center of the top. It concerned me so much that I decided to cut the stone in half – not an easy decision for such a large emerald – resulting in two perfect half-moon crescents. I matched some very large trapezoid diamonds and created a deco-inspired pair of emerald and diamond earrings that are set with almost 900 diamonds. I think of them often and recall how they came to be. They are certainly one of my favorites.
What about a favorite gemstone?
Blue diamonds because of their rarity, sapphires for their intensity, and precious blue paraibas.
You’re known to be the number one choice on the red carpet; how did that begin?
It all started in 1992, when I received a telephone call from Paramount Studios requesting a favor of me, one that would change my life, both personally and professionally. I was asked to loan a diamond choker necklace and earrings to Sharon Stone to wear at the premiere of her new film Basic Instinct. I was hesitant at first, as this was a new concept for me. It seemed like too much risk with little reward; I wondered and questioned how it would be known that the jewels came from Martin Katz. We came to an agreement that Sharon would also be wearing my jewelry for her national magazine covers and I would receive a byline. As a result, I loaned her the jewels, and the rest is history.
This decision launched my company into a completely new stratosphere. I was flooded with calls from stylists, PR agents, and even actresses themselves, so many that I was forced to hire publicists to assist with the number of calls I was getting. In 1998, I loaned over $20 million worth of jewels to at least 35 stars throughout the awards season. As of today, I have bejeweled more than 500 different celebrities, including Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Barbra Streisand, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp, Mark Wahlberg, Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, Jessica Biel, and the list goes on and on.
Do you tailor your jewelry to what the celebrity asks for/what they are wearing?
When I first started, the world of celebrity dressing was a lot different than it is today. Back then, celebrities would select the jewelry and create a look around the jewels. Now, there is so much more hoopla, endorsements, and stylists. I feel like the celebrity always has their dress picked out first now, and then creates a look around it, so I do cater to what they are wearing by providing options that would best compliment their look.
What was your favorite look of a celebrity wearing your jewelry on the red carpet?
To this day, I still love Nicole Kidman at the 1997 Academy Awards, which she attended with Tom Cruise. She wore a Galliano dress that was a unique lemongrass color and we complimented the look with Mogul Indian earrings. It is still a much-discussed look and one that I was really proud of.