Given all Nic Cerrone has accomplished materially as a master Australian jeweller and designer, it’s still the other partner in a transaction that steers his ship.
“A designer has to connect with a customer,” Cerrone said. “My master, who had a German background, would always say to his customers, ‘You came to the base, I'm going to do the best piece of jewelry for you.’
“Today, that doesn't work, because the customer is your goal. You need to listen to your customer and understand your customer. What are your customers’ likes? How do they like to live? How do they enjoy their food? How do they enjoy their music?
“So in that way, you get to understand what sort of jewellery (he/she) really likes to wear. And it's really listening to your customer, making your customer be connected with you, and making them feel that you are one of them.”
When NSW chief executive Peter V’Landys created the idea for The Everest race, he looked no further than Cerrone to design and produce hardware representative of what has become the world’s richest turf race.
And why not? Cerrone had come a long, long way to establish himself globally.
Cerrone, whose father migrated the family to Australia from Italy during the 1950s, had dabbled in art by hand after making a tough decision during his schoolboy years.
“The most beautiful thing in life is you have to be honest to yourself,” Cerrone said, “I was really bad at school. I couldn't concentrate. I found it very hard to read a book or to write a letter. It just wasn't me.
“So, I got to a stage where I virtually told my parents ‘I cannot stay at school anymore, I needed to do things with my hands. We started to look at, you know, being a tailor, being a hairdresser, anything to do a shape … anything to do with my mind, because I had a very open mind.
“That's when I really realized that I had to become an artist, having that ability to be able to express what I had inside my body and on my mind.”
An apprenticeship in jewellery followed before Cerrone set sail on his own and established himself worldwide.
Cerrone in 1998 captured the De Beers Diamonds International Award in Paris, the jewellery industry’s equivalent to the Academy Award.
“That still gives me goosebumps today,” Cerrone recalled. “That's a way for you to feel confident, and belief that what you are thinking or what you feeling, that you're on the right track. You are virtually being appreciated. And you've been accepted as an international designer. It made me very comfortable. It made me realize that whatever ideas I was going to take, I was a lot more confident with myself.”
Cerrone’s reputation also got a boost when he provided former model/actress Kate Fischer with a diamond-studded top that wowed the paparazzi worldwide.
“I mean, the Australian continent is probably one of the oldest continents in the world,” Cerrone explained. “So that reflects in the silicon of the diamonds, which means that they would be the hottest diamonds in the world. And then we decided to go have a beautiful woman like Kate Fischer try the top. She made the papers all over the world.”
Fast forward back to Cerrone’s Everest challenge in 2017, where V’Landys was going full throttle to accompany the massive purse, letting Cerrone know he wanted to reward the winning connections with the world’s most impressive and richest trophy during its inaugural running in 2017.
By any means was this to be no easy task: Cerrone was charged with not only developing a stellar work of art representative of a horse race that had yet to be contested, but he and his staff had to think beyond a piece of jewelry.
As in eight — yes, eight — pieces.
“It was very challenging because there were a lot of things to achieve,” Cerrone recalled.
“There was the (horse) muscle structure to achieve the veins to achieve, Jewelry is not used to working with big pieces like that.
“That's why we have to divide it into eight sections. It's a lot easier for you to put details on a piece of jewellery — there was the only way we could achieve our goal was to make it in small pieces.”
Refining a diamond-studded replica horse supported by silver plating and surrounded by a gold-plated arc, Cerrone needs about a year’s time to tweak the craftsmanship for the next event. The current Everest trophy specifications call for up to 8,000 white and black diamonds with the thoroughbred having two ruby eyes.
“That was a lot of team effort a lot of back and forward,” Cerrone said of the first endeavour. “Money was not a problem, it was about the excitement, the energy of the trophy. That's what we wanted, and it took us a long time to achieve that. It does take almost a year to conclude one trophy for the next year. “
In 2017, when Cerrone’s world-class team revealed the finished product, emotions flowed.
“When I finished the piece, there was all my staff and my family and my wife, who had tears in her eyes when they first saw it.
“I said, ‘Well, this is a deep winner,’ because you know, when it brings emotion out, that means it’s touching people's hearts. That's really what we live for, getting to have that amazing feeling.
“An artist only lives for that.”
Cerrone says the race day itself is an exciting fabric of life not only in and around Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse, but of the continent itself.
“The Everest now it's becoming a very exciting part of life because it's not just the horse owners that are involved, he said. “There are a lot of young people who are involved, there are politicians, and it's a great day of meeting everybody at the same level.
“Australia gives you this great opportunity, that you feel we are united, we are very strong as an ethnic country.
“It doesn't matter where you come from, we all accept you. And we are all accepted as equal, human beings.”
When it comes to the race itself, Cerrone gets to sit back and take in and watch the fruits of his labours unfold before him as the Everest is decided in less than 90 seconds. Then the winning connections hit the winner’s circle and view the expansive and elegant prize.
“There is an amazing feeling when you're at the racetrack, and you see these people winning and crying tears of joy when they see the trophy,” Cerrone says. “I just cannot believe it, because it's not just a trophy. It's an extravaganza, it's amazing, and it’s history.”