15/07/2010 - 00:00

Cufflinks for a pope

15/07/2010 - 00:00


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Several years overseas have given Rohan Milne an appreciation of the real value of his craft.

Cufflinks for a pope

THE owner of a three-year-old jewellery business, shortlisted for two national awards and approaching $1 million in annual turnover believes, in life and in business, it’s more rewarding to give than to receive.

The owner of Leederville’s Rohan Jewellery, Rohan Milne, says it was childhood advice from his grandfather and a stint by his wife, Toni, working for the United Nations overseas that helped inspire his charity work.

“As a kid my grandad said to me ‘you reap what you sow’,” Mr Milne says.

“Our focus is to make the business the best we can and produce the best jewellery.

“It’s also part of our company structure to make sure that as we get bigger we give back more and more.

“As you give, it comes back to you.”

At the end of this month Mr Milne will deliver his latest creation for charity, a collection of five 18-carat white gold, diamond-encrusted hourglass-shaped pendants.

They’re a gift for philanthropist Ros Worthington’s HelpMe Campaign (as part of Lifeline WA), a statewide initiative to combat suicide by raising awareness of mental health issues in the community.

Mr Milne will donate up to 15 carats worth of diamonds for the inaugural Black Diamond Ball on July 30, which he says will be raffled to get more people involved and hopefully raise more money.

“In 2008 we did our first piece for David Wirrpanda Foundation,” he says.

“It was one of the most expensive pieces ever auctioned for charity in Perth selling for $24,500.

“But only a handful of people can afford it, or actually like it, and what I’ve designed (for the Black Diamond Ball) I think will appeal to everyone in the room.”

Strong appeal for Mr Milne’s work is likely, considering he spent 18 months working with world-renowned New York-based jeweller, Henry Dunay.

“For two years running Henry was named best jewellery designer in the world,” Mr Milne says.

“So this little boy from Perth was in New York working on big $100,000 pieces for all the superstars.”

Mr Milne returned to Perth and his apprentice-roots at Smales in Subiaco, where he learned more about the business as workshop manager before a stint in 2004 working for Italian outfit, Guccione, the independent company that makes pieces for the Vatican.

During his time in Italy, while his wife worked for the UN, Mr Milne says he was commissioned to make cufflinks that were later presented to the pope as well as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

“It was pretty cool,” he says.

“Although, I’ve never actually seen the pope wear cufflinks.”

Upon his return he opened his boutique store in Oxford Street in 2007, employing only designers and jewellery makers as opposed to sales staff.

“Having seen stores worldwide I wanted to create an atmosphere of professionalism that’s relaxed for people to come in and buy, and for it to be the best to be in Australia without the pretentiousness,” Mr Milne says.

And it seems to be working, with the company’s first two entries into a competition, this year’s Jewellers Association of Australia awards, being nominated as finalists.

“This is the big kahuna of jewellery awards,” he says. “I’m stoked.”

Mr Milne hopes to one day take his business global, with a spot in New York’s Soho district the top of the list.



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