Nacre is a technologically remarkable organic-inorganic composite biomaterial. It consists of an ordered multilayer structure of crystalline calcium carbonate platelets separated by porous organic layers. This microstructure exhibits both optical iridescence and mechanical toughness, which transcend those of its constituent components. Replication of nacre is essential for understanding this complex biomineral, and paves the way for tough coatings fabricated from cheap abundant materials. Fabricating a calcitic nacre imitation with biologically similar optical and mechanical properties will likely require following all steps taken in biogenic nacre synthesis. Here we present a route to artificial nacre that mimics the natural layer-by-layer approach to fabricate a hierarchical crystalline multilayer material. Its structure-function relationship was confirmed by nacre-like mechanical properties and striking optical iridescence. Our biomimetic route uses the interplay of polymer-mediated mineral growth, combined with layer-by-layer deposition of porous organic films. This is the first successful attempt to replicate nacre, using CaCO3.