By  on November 6, 2006

With his sparkly creations already a staple of the Hollywood red carpet, Martin Katz is pushing for wider commercial success.

The jeweler has launched a signature collection available to select stores — in addition to his own, where his designs have been sold exclusively since Katz first opened in Beverly Hills in 2000.

Katz for years demurred when requests poured in from retailers to buy his pieces, including his signature stackable bands set with tiny pavé diamonds. The result: Katz's styles were copied by others seeking to capitalize on the popularity he gained bedazzling celebrities such as Ashley Judd, Jennifer Aniston and Salma Hayek.

"I frankly got tired of seeing so many knockoffs," he said. "If you are a small creator doing something and much larger ventures are able to take the concepts and run with them, everybody thinks it is their look. [With wholesale] at least I will be out there and people can see the real thing."

Katz is tightly controlling the wholesale operation. Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler in Bellevue, Wash., is the only store to pick up his pieces so far. Katz estimated that he will generate $3 million to $5 million in wholesale revenues each of the next two years — only about 10 percent of his total take — selling to no more than six locations.

"We are going with stores where we like their taste and what they stand for," Katz said. "The stores skew to a sophisticated client where rarity is important and it is not just a price issue."

Still, Katz's signature collection of 12 items, retailing mostly from $25,000 to $50,000, is affordable compared with the custom collection, featuring designs that run into the millions of dollars. The micropavé bands start at $6,000 each and Katz believes their relative inexpensiveness will make them top wholesale sellers.

Steven Goldfarb, president of Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, is of a different mind about what will be in highest demand. He is betting the one-of-a-kind items in the signature collection will gain a strong following and is stocking rings with pink tourmaline, emerald and sapphire stones priced from $25,000 to $225,000.

"When someone is buying something that is expensive and fabulous, they would like to be the only one wearing that expensive and fabulous something," said Goldfarb, who has known Katz for years and urged him to begin wholesaling. "The real sophisticated customer pays attention to different jewelry trends and [Katz] is really at the forefront."Goldfarb said he would soon set up a Katz-focused display with a "wow" centerpiece surrounded by more attainable, everyday jewelry. A picture of a celebrity wearing an item he carries will be placed alongside to emphasize Katz's high profile. Regulars will be introduced to the brand at a Nov. 16 try-on party.

Concerned with how his pieces are presented, Katz has created displays to mimic the look of his salons. Retailers will be provided fixtures with brushed metal lettering and taupe accents used in those salons.

Katz, who segued into designing in the early Nineties after years as a vintage jewelry dealer, continues to build his own salon business. He plans to add to his New York, Beverly Hills and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., locations with a salon in Newport Beach, Calif., next year and one in Las Vegas the year after.

The growth will put pressure on Katz's production capacity. In the near future, he said he would like to open another jewelry-making shop in Europe, where all of his pieces are crafted, and secure an assembly and finishing house in the U.S. to ensure his stock is adequately replenished.

Katz said his existing capacity is sufficient to fill another store, so he is waiting to see how the wholesaling fares before he builds up more. But Katz is confident that his irreverent approach to fine jewelry — he says it should be worn with jeans — has broad appeal.

"There is so much money in the hands of young people, they want to spend it," Katz said. "Price tag doesn't scare them.…I have tried to design important pieces for the current lifestyle."

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