Robb Interview: John Calleija, Calleija Jewellers

The master jeweller on why pink is close to perfect.

By Robb Report 04/08/2021

John Calleija, of the eponymous jewellery atelier Calleija,  is renowned for his distinct, personal approach to jewellery. A heady, carefully curated career has seen Calleija, both man and brand, ascend to the heights of rarity and beauty.

Now, Calleija – a member of the elite group of Argyle Pink Diamonds Select Ateliers – sat with Robb Report to talk about “exceptional” jewellery and how his personal approach continues to shine.

Robb Report: Why jewellery, what drew you to it over other mediums of creative expression?

John Calleija: I’ve loved drawing since I was about four years old but I never knew what field of creativity I would channel my skills into. Fashion, architecture and yacht design were all of interest to me.

My mother took me to a jewellery store when I was very young. I showed such an interest in the beautiful pieces that were on display that the kind lady in the store gave me a gold enamelled mouse. Years later, my dear mother arranged a job interview for me with a very talented Sydney jeweller.

Thank goodness she did this, as he took me under his wing and I fell in love with the process. I loved jewellery because it combined my love of drawing and creating something from scratch.  It has always been a very personal process. Creating jewellery wasn’t easy at the start, but I am so glad I trusted my instincts.

RR: What makes ‘good jewellery’, what does it look like, do and mean to you?

JC: Good jewellery, or as I prefer ‘exceptional’ jewellery, is designed and created to last for generations. We [Calleija] love to create exceptional jewellery and pride ourselves on making our jewels look beautiful from both the front and the back.

Exceptional jewellery is created with materials that are one hundred per cent authentic and responsibly sourced. This is why Calleija only supports long-term suppliers that uphold sustainable practices. We only work with specific diamond companies that subscribe to the highest ethical standards of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

RR: So then tell me about your sustainable practices?

JC: We are one of the few fine jewellers recognised for our sustainable and ethical jewellery making practices. Only fourteen other jewellers in the world have been certified with the Butterfly Mark, which is the only international trust mark that recognises luxury brands for their commitment to ethics and sustainability. I take great pride knowing all Calleija designs minimise waste and maximise beauty.

RR: How does your approach differ from what other jewellers are offering?

JC: Calleija is one of the members of the elite Argyle Pink Diamonds Select Ateliers.  Only a small number of talented artisans and master jewellers are trusted to work with Argyle Pink Diamonds. To be trusted with these incredibly rare gems is an immense privilege. By using Argyle pink, red and blue diamonds in Calleija creations, we can also trace each gemstone back to the mine of its origin.

RR: Explain to the layperson the rarity and importance of an Argyle Tender Diamond.

JC: The Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia has produced some incredible diamonds for nearly 40 years and less than one per cent of the Argyle mine’s total production was pink. These incredibly rare Argyle Pink Diamonds were the source of 90% of the world’s pink diamonds.

Now imagine a teaspoon barely filled with the finest Argyle pink, red and blue diamonds chosen from the total year’s production — these are rarest of the rare.

The exceptionally rare Argyle diamonds are offered at an invitation-only annual Argyle Pink Diamond Tender, the most exclusive diamond event in the world. Argyle Tender diamonds are the most highly coveted diamonds of all.

RR: As pink diamonds become increasingly rare, does that make what you do at Calleija more difficult?

JC: Fortunately, we have prepared for the closure of the mine and it’s why we have such a beautiful collection of Argyle Pink Diamonds. By having such rare diamonds, it also brings an immense responsibility to showcase them with great artistry and reverence.  We also design and create a large range of jewellery featuring a range of other gems including white, yellow, blue and black diamonds.

RR: Aside from the Diamonds themselves, what inspires your creations? Do you have a signature flourish or look that you are partial to?

JC: I am often inspired by nature, amazing art, our clients and their individual stories.  There is nothing better than getting to know a client, discovering what inspires them and what their passions are—then the design comes naturally.

I also like the hidden details of our pieces to unfold as the wearer gets to know and understand their creation. We often don’t tell you everything about your piece. Instead, you can gain greater joy from discovering the intricate details. A lot of people probably do not know this, but some of our rings have an Argyle Pink Diamond hidden underneath. This is designed to be a secret diamond for the wearer alone. Creating joy for a client is what inspires me most.

RR: How important is the bespoke layer of the business?

JC: Creating a bespoke piece of jewellery for our clients is important to Calleija. We love to read a person’s personality, then design and create a one-off piece especially for them to treasure.  Nothing compares to having something personally designed and created for you to enhance your style and essence. There’s nothing more rewarding from a designer’s point of view to see the look of joy in a client’s eyes when we reveal a brand new Calleija creation just for them.

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