Elegance, craftsmanship, passion and ‘joie de vivre’



Perfection takes time. That is why Julie Martens takes her time when she designs her beautiful and unique jewels for her clients, for the store displays and for the online boutique of the family business. “Designing is my passion and my art. You should never feel rushed as an artist.”

Julie is the third generation of Martens to create handmade, one-of-a-kind jewels. “My grandmother has always been active in the industry, but it was my father that opened our first store in Aalst in 1990. Five years later, he opened a second store here in Sint-Niklaas.” They also have online shop. “We wanted to inform people about the possibilities and prices. From the comfort of their own home.”

Martens learned the trade from her family and at the Institute for Arts, Technique, Science and Crafts IATA in Namur, where she enrolled in courses on arts history and drawing and studying to be a goldsmith. “There, I found my passion for diamonds. We handpick the diamonds we use in our jewellery, because we want to be sure they are perfect.” The shops of Martens Jewellery used to carry a lot more watches, but the Martens family decided to focus mainly on jewellery. “Jewels have their own personality. They are items that make a person unique, let them shine,” she continues. “Each client has their own story and we can play a part in turning that story into a timeless piece.”

Creating unique, handcrafted pieces

The Martens collection consists of two major parts: the first is the jewellery that they design from their own inspiration. “That is where our artistic side can run wild. We like to sometimes create a jewel that is a bit more ‘out there’. For instance, a canary-yellow diamond with a blue sapphire from Mozambique,” she says. The second is creating custom made jewels based on a client’s request.

“It can be either that they have just an idea of what they want, or that they want to modify an existing piece that has been in the family for decades,” Martens continues. When designing a custom-made piece, it is very important to understand the person that is going to wear it. “What are they like, what kind of style do they have, what kind of cultural background is there and what kind of materials are we going to use?” If someone, who works a lot with their hands, is going to wear a ring, for instance, it is better to use a stronger material like platinum. “That information is the basis for our design and from there we go to the drawing board. In a second meeting, we discuss the design and the budget.” Once that is set, the team of Martens goes to work. “We pride ourselves in our craftwork. We are extremely proud that we have been given the ‘Handmade in Belgium’ label. This is a label by Unizo, the union for small and medium enterprises in Belgium, who recognise the producers of genuine, traditional, quality products.”

Besides creating their own jewels, the shops of Martens carry a selection of fine pieces from Italian, Danish and Swiss designer houses such as Chopard. “They blur the lines between watchmaking and jewellery. In the Happy Sport collection for women, it looks like diamonds move freely across the dial. They also have a range of watches for men, inspired by classic race cars, like the Mille Miglia race cars.”

As contemporary as it was decades ago

Another big part of the work of Martens is service and restoration. “A lot of our customers bring in jewellery that once belonged to a family member and that they want to repair or modify. Sometimes, with just some little modifications, a piece can be as contemporary today as it was 30 years ago, when their grandmother wore it.”

“Let’s say that 99 per cent of times people come to the store or place an order on our online boutique, they are happy to be here,” smiles Martens, “because they buy something to celebrate a happy occasion. We see all of life’s happy moments, from celebrating an engagement, to a wedding, the birth of a child or any other milestone. We have the privilege to design something unique and personal that is part of that celebration, and that will be part of their lives for a long time to come. What more do you want?”


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