The warmth and blue skies of Italy and the sunshine and freshness of Australia make a winning combination. These elements come together in Nicola Cerrone, young, winsome and friendly.
“I was lucky to have been born in Italy, with its centuries of culture and traditions, and its world name for fashion and the arts,” he said. “And I was lucky to have established a jewelry base in Australia, that has bountiful natural resources in gems, and that offers opportunities.”
He works with diamonds, pearls, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and opals in producing unique pieces of jewelry. As he designs and creates, he thinks, he said, “of originality, beauty and quality, to make the piece well, to give my clients the very best value in stones and setting, to maintain high standards of craftsmanship and design excellence.” The personal style that characterizes his creations somehow includes the suggestion of warmth and sunshine that are his twin heritages.
His acquisition of a second country happened when his parents emigrated. Born in a village near Rome, Nic was 12 when his family moved to Australia. He attended school in Sydney. At 18 he became apprenticed to a master jeweler whose shop occupied a prime position in Sydney’s shopping district.
At 18, he says, he was older than most apprentices. “But I could work with my hands,” he said. “And I had a burning desire to succeed in life.” On his side were his youth, initiative and ambition, and the youthful, exuberant environment of Australia. As soon as he felt ready, he opened his House of Cerrone in modest terraced premises in Sydney. That was 26 years ago.
Now he has three retail stores, one of them in Sydney’s prestigious luxury shopping precinct of Castlereagh Street. In these 26 years he has won more than 40 national and international jewelry design awards, including the De Beers Diamonds International Award.
“Most of all I love working with diamonds,” he said. “They have all colors, including unusual pink, cognac and champagne, and no color at all.” He is also very enthusiastic about Australian South Sea pearls, “the biggest and most lustrous pearls in the world.”
Nic is called Australia’s market leader in engagement and wedding rings. He has built an impressive export market around the world. He came recently to Japan to exhibit here with the project Artistic Australia, produced by Infinity Creations, which is directed by outstanding designer Kazuo Ogawa.
Notably, Infinity Creations pioneers the presentation of the work of jewelry designers from Australia and South Africa, the idiom of both countries drawn from multiple motifs. Nic, acutely aware of quality of craftsmanship, appreciates what he sees in Japan. “I am very comfortable and happy here,” he said.
Fifteen years ago, Nic won the De Beers Supreme Diamond Award for a dazzling tiara. Nine years ago he was commissioned to design and execute the largest diamond necklace ever made in Australia. It featured as the centerpiece of the Argyle Diamonds display in the Australian pavilion of the World Expo in Seville.
Six years ago, in a diversion from jewelry as personal adornment, he created an innovative 20-carat diamond-and-gold swimsuit.
In the following year he came up with the world’s most expensive bustier, modeled by Kate Fischer. It was valued at $1.5 million.
The 1998 De Beers Diamonds International Award, presented in Paris, honored the most original and influential designs. Nic was one of 25 international winners, and the only Australian. He regards the award as “the Oscar of the jewelry industry.”
He widened his scope still further that year. In a burst of ingenuity, he produced a masterpiece in the form of an 18-carat white gold diamond-encrusted ice bucket. In any Cerrone display, all that glisters is gold.
This time last year Nic produced a hairpin that was also made of 18-carat white gold and diamonds. It was worn in a special shoot by model Claudia Schiffer for a leading fashion magazine.
He brought with him to exhibit in Tokyo several items that proclaim his individuality, imagination and skill. One is a low-slung, wide diamond belt. The other is a diamond necklace that stands up as an Elizabethan ruff. He shows cutlery with rubies set in the handles.
Nic still speaks the Italian that his family always spoke at home, and keeps an abiding love for the country of his birth. His English is clearly Australian-accented. “I am lucky to have as my business partner and manager my wife,” he said. She too is an Australian of Italian descent.