This month meet one of our Queensland member jewellers, John Calleija of Calleija Jewellers. John is one of Australia’s most talented designers having won several international jewellery awards including the coveted De Beers International Diamond Design Award. Today, Calleija boutiques can be found on the Gold Coast, Sydney and London.

How did you become a designer jeweller and what year was Calleija established?

I became a jewellery designer under the guidance of a very talented Sydney Jeweller when I was 18. He took me under his wing and I immediately fell in love with the process of imagining a design, drawing it and actually creating it. Creating fine jewellery was a perfect combination of my passion for art and exceptional craftsmanship and design.

I enjoyed creating intricate pieces that are beautiful from every angle and when I opened our first Calleija boutique in 1984, I dedicated my full attention to designing jewellery I had always envisioned. Taking that risk was a liberating experience and I am incredibly thankful I trusted my instincts.

I was so excited to finally open my first boutique in Queensland and when the day actually arrived, I opened it wish such pride and anticipation. We went all day without one person coming into the store. Then finally a gentleman from the US purchased an opal piece for $3500 — I was so shocked and so thankful. Calleija has come a long way and I am so proud we are known for our undeniable dedication to inimitable design with mesmerising details.

What do you love about working with diamonds?

To work with diamonds is an immense privilege as they are one of nature’s most ancient treasures. Diamonds are the pinnacle of timeless beauty and universally represent endless love and eternal devotion. One of my favourite aspects about working with diamonds, is creating a piece designed to be cherished for generations.

To design and create something that represents an unforgettable moment in someone’s life or celebrates a special occasion is such an honour. Whether it’s designing an engagement ring, a beautiful pair of earrings or pendant, it’s such a joy to hear the stories of each gift and be part of that beautiful journey. And that’s the part I love most — I love learning about everyone’s journey in life; their tribulations, their triumphs and their celebrations. It’s a joy to be part of that.

What has been the most memorable piece you have ever designed?

I will always remember designing the ‘Virtual Eros’ diamond mask. Out of 2,500 entries, Calleija was bestowed with the De Beers International Diamond Design Award in 2000. Virtual Eros was designed with 44 carats of brilliant diamonds and was chosen as a personal favourite by Madonna. To see it featured in countless publications and in Alexander McQueen’s catwalk was a remarkable experience. I was so thankful to win that De Beers International Diamond Design award; it gave me the confidence to be fearless with my designs and I have always trusted my instinct ever since.

If you could design your dream piece of diamond jewellery what would this be?

I design my dream piece of jewellery almost every day. It is perpetual process and I often wake up at 3 am every morning with a design on my mind. I then have to unlock my imagination with my sketchbook and design it with all its details that day. We then create that piece in our workshop and I am always inspired every step of that journey. I’ve always had an innate appreciation for beauty and I’m often inspired by amazing art, nature and the amazing stories of our individual clients. My mind rarely rests and I am so fortunate to have the privilege of creating fine jewellery from something that inspires me.

What trends are you seeing in diamond jewellery and what do you predict for the coming year?

I would like to see all jewellery become completely ethical and sustainably crafted. The future is in our hands and Calleija understands stronger actions must be taken to help protect our planet. We have become extremely conscious of every step we take. From eliminating single use plastics, to the energy efficient practices we use in our boutiques, we do everything we can to improve the environment.

Calleija is proudly certified with the Butterfly Mark, the only international trust mark that recognises luxury brands for their commitment to creating a positive impact on people and the planet. This is something we have worked towards for years and to meet its stringent criteria every year is something I am very grateful for.