Jakob Kats, founder of SOHO, died in September 2005. He was 55. Kats was born in Odessa, Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union. An accomplished pianist and guitarist by age 12, he graduated music school with a master’s degree, but his real passion was jewelry. After obtaining the highest ranking for mandatory service in the Soviet army, he enrolled in a master’s program for jewelry design and was hired by a top Russian jewelry factory as a production manager.
In 1975 Kats and his wife, Olga, whom he’d met while studying for his jewelry degree, applied for permission to leave the Soviet Union with their 1-year-old son Ceava. They were among the first—and few—Soviet Jews permitted to leave.
The Katses immigrated to Galveston, Texas, where, after a few years working again as a jewelry production manager, Jakob opened his own store, Jewels by Jakob, in early 1981. He designed jewelry for many well-known Texas socialites for the 13 years his store was in business.
In 1993 Kats decided to start his own line of jewelry. He and Olga, collaborating with a group of Italian craftsmen, created a line of enameled jewelry which they named SOHO, because Galveston is “south of Houston.” The SOHO line, now based in La Jolla, Calif., is continuing under the leadership of Olga and Ceava.