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From Australia with love: Calleija’s rare diamond delights

Annabel Davidson
Calleija platinum, rose gold, blue, pink and white diamond ring - Chad Johnson and The Commercial Art Lab

John Calleija, the Australian fine jeweller, came into the trade by a slightly unconventional route. He was lying on the sofa watching television as a teenager when his mother asked him what he planned on doing with his life.

“An advertisement came on just then for a jewellery brand,” he recalls as we chatted in the private appointment room above his boutique in Mayfair’s Royal Arcade. “So I just blurted out that I would be a jeweller. She then arranged an apprenticeship and it went from there!”

That’s not entirely true – Calleija had always been creative, drawing and sketching and making things with his hands since he can remember – but designing jewellery had never been the plan.

Calleija Harmony platinum and diamond pear-shape drop earrings

That fortuitously timed advertisement has resulted in Calleija becoming one of one of only 30 ‘select ateliers’ in the world with access to the Western Australian Argyle mine’s best selection of natural pink diamonds.

“The mine’s closing in 2020, that’s for sure,” says Calleija, who is in London to show off some of his newest pieces – including magnificent Muzo emeralds, large tanzanites, blue diamonds and peachy pink Padparadscha sapphires, a suite of which (including a necklace, earrings, and a bracelet) took ten years to collect. “We’re not just pink and white – we do other colours too!” he jokes.

Calleija Black Orchid ring in white gold with a 36.25-carat black diamond

Sitting behind a desk laden with tantalizingly closed boxes, John revealed each piece one by one. One contains an enormous 36.25 carat black diamond, pear-shaped and set with tiny blue and pink sapphires on its white gold shank. Valued in the low tens of thousands of pounds, it was the best comparison for the value of precious Argyle stones.

Calleija Leilani white and rose gold, morganite, pink and white diamond pendant

Another box holds a Fancy Intense purplish red diamond which, while comparatively tiny at just under two carats, is worth more than £4 million – and that’s today. “It’s not for sale,” John insists. “We just don’t know exactly how many red diamonds there are in the world but there are definitely fewer than 1,000.”

And while Calleija may be keen to showcase his other precious coloured stones, it is the craftsmanship around the pink diamonds that impresses most.

Calleija white gold, Padparadscha sapphire and diamond bracelet

From every angle, even the smallest ring is replete with hidden details – yellow gold scrollwork on the undersides, beautifully defined spaces between a stone and its halo, or just the right amount of yellow gold claws peeking over a large pink diamond’s corners. One ring sported unusually elongated triangular cut diamonds slotted – not set – into a ring’s shanks.

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And with two full time jewellers working in the London atelier, Calleija is hardly an Australia-only brand. Its small but perfectly formed store is proof of that, and its windows gleaming with every colour – but especially pink – are proving to be a big success with the UK market.

calleija.com