Nic Cerrone has always dreamed big.
“My mother always tells me when I used to sit around the fireplace back in Italy, even at the age of six, I always used to tell her that one day, I’m going to be very famous!”
Today, living on the other side of the world in Australia, he runs the eponymous jewellery brand that caters for celebrities and for those who love beautiful jewellery set here and abroad.
It has been quite a journey since Cerrone migrated to Australia, later becoming an apprentice to a master jeweller before setting up his own fledgling business. He initially operated out of a small terrace house in Leichhardt, a $16,000 property purchase that, 30 years on, he still counts as one of the best decisions he has made.
“I worked downstairs and lived upstairs,” he recalls. “My beginning was very much me going to these families and borrowing their jewellery and repairing it for free so I could train myself to become a good jeweller. So that I could handle these pieces, to touch them, feel them (and) understand what was the meat of these things.”
Cerrone now operates four luxurious stores across Sydney. His elegant jewellery lines are exported around the world and adorn celebrities such as Barbara Streisand and Olivia Newton-John. Not bad for an Australian entrepreneur who grew up in Lanciano, a town in the Abruzzo region in the heart of Italy.
Passion and a burning desire to please those who wear his unique jewellery are the hallmarks of Cerrone’s success. Such acclaim has come on the back of hard work, innovation and a touch of introspection – for example, realising early in his career that selling was not his strength.
“It was not my forte so I employed an English gentleman to represent my work,” he says.
“He was very proud of what I was doing and knew I had something unique, so he went and knocked on all the doors in Sydney. Within a few months our work went through the roof. From one jeweller, I started to employ two, three …”
The rest, as we know, is Australian jewellery history.
A sparkling résumé
While gorgeous designs and great craftsmanship are at the heart of Nic Cerrone’s business success, he appreciates the importance of external endorsements.
“My way of promoting my industry was always trying to win international awards because it’s very difficult to go out and say ‘Look, I am the best jeweller in town’,” he says.
“It’s like you blow your own trumpet. It doesn’t make an impact until you start winning awards, design awards, entrepreneurial awards, business awards, all those sorts of things. I think that’s the best advertising you can possibly have.”
In the modern world, Cerrone believes mass production has, sadly, overtaken style.
“One of my favourite designers was Valentino. He had a great passion for beauty, style and his weakness was anything that was beautiful … But today there’s too much mass production.”
To counter such commercialism, Cerrone strives for excellence.
“It’s a brand where we take every customer seriously.
“I want them to enjoy and find that happiness of wearing [my jewellery] and celebrate the wonderful occasion that they bought it for. And it’s really a wonderful feeling when, for instance, someone comes along and says ‘It’s my 20-year anniversary. I want to buy my wife the best piece of jewellery’.”
Even the stars are in the know.
“It’s like Celine Dion, when her husband rang. It was her 40th birthday and her husband said ‘I want to buy the best piece of jewellery you have in your store’. That is the ultimate reward you could possibly have.”