What does Martin Katz share with old Hollywood royalty, European nobility and American aristocrats?—the striking beauty of rich and verdant green rare emeralds of exceptional quality. From Jacqueline Kennedy to the Duchess of Windsor, emerald engagement rings graced the left hands of two of the most iconic and stylish women. If you go back even earlier to 1922, Princess Mary appeared in public wearing an emerald engagement ring and subsequently the price of emeralds soared, sealing the gem’s status as a favorite among regals and socialites alike. From the Maharajah of Patiala, whose emeralds were said to be the ‘size of apricots’, to Marlene Dietrich’s love of emeralds—her personal bracelets showed up on the silver screen and Richard Burton's gifts to Elizabeth Taylor of no-oil emeralds, these are part of the legends, lure and allure of the most sought after of these stones mined throughout history.
The history of no-oil emeralds
Martin Katz has become part of that history, seeking out the most breathtaking and magical emeralds he can find and then setting them into his signature designs that range from classically elegant to whimsically designed to intricately detailed one-of-a-kind styles. He evokes each emerald’s unique personality, presence and character and each stone that is selected is an exquisite example that best represents the miracle of mother nature.
“Martin talks about the preciousness and collectability of “no-oil” emeralds he has obtained for his collection. “No-oil emeralds are the holy grail of emeralds. Think of Columbian emeralds as the finest and then figure in that approximately 98% of these are treated in some way, albeit often only minor oil treatment. Therefore, we are talking about an extremely small subset of gemstones which are rarer than some of the most valuable of diamonds—the no-oil emerald.” My goal is always to select the finest, unparalleled and exceptional of all gemstones.” He continues, “Procuring no-oil emeralds for my collectors has been challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Their scarcity renders them extremely desirable, prestigious and collectable,” he adds. But first we need to understand it is acceptable and commonplace that even the most extraordinary Columbian emeralds traditionally have some inclusions which reach the surface area and are usually treated with oil that fills and ‘heals’ the microscopic cracks which enhance clarity and can enrich the color. They can be filled to a small or larger degree. No-oil emeralds are naturally clean specimens with typically no fissures coming to the surface and therefore there is nothing to fill in which elevates them to gem collector status.
“We look for both the no-oil and those that have scant amounts of oil,” says Martin, who, himself has a collector’s eye. “His love for beauty and his earlier career in vintage jewelry fueled his passion for the remarkable and wondrous gemstones he has since amassed for his collection, particularly in no-oil and lightly treated but vibrantly colored emeralds.
How Martin Katz approaches jewelry designs with no-oil emeralds
Martin’s couture aesthetic results in each pair of emerald earrings, emerald bracelet or necklace, right hand and engagement rings being meticulously designed, sometimes irreverent, never predictable, always clever and foremost emphasizing the magnificence of the gemstone.
“There are pieces for the collector who want the stone to be the feature of the ring.” Martin explains, “For these clients, we tend to create settings that showcase the emeralds by keeping the design details and elements more pared down, while still adding elements of my design sensibility. Then there are the pieces that are more whimsical, joyous and daring.”
Martin captured this feeling when he cut one large cabochon emerald into two half-moon shapes for earrings. “I felt the emerald would be more exciting when split into half-moon shapes, plus it would eliminate the small imperfections that were in the middle of the cabochon. Once we did this, we had a matching pair of stones for earrings. I designed these with a nod back to one of my favorite eras when I was dealing in antique and vintage—the Art Deco period.”
Martin Katz has become the go-to jeweler for-impossible-to-find stones like no-oil emeralds and for his inventive creations, winks to the essence of what intrigues consummate collectors about jewelry’s past, and for his knowledge that gemstones do have specific personalities.
“You need to feel the wow when you are purchasing a gemstone piece—and to connect on an emotional or visceral level,” Martin offers, “Once you do this, you will wear your pieces with pride and add to your collection with confidence and the sense that your signed and numbered emerald pieces are unique and quintessentially a Martin Katz design. You will share in his captivating vision while also making it your own.”