A tour through the archives at the 403-year-old, 14th-generation family-owned French maison
On my last day in Paris, after a whirlwind trip to the Who’s Next, Première Classe, Salon International de la Lingerie, Bijorhca, and Maison & Objet shows (whew!), I had the chance to see some gorgeous high jewelry creations at two very distinctive houses: Lydia Courteille (read more about her new collection here) and Mellerio dits Meller.
I’m ashamed to say that prior to my visit I’d never heard of Mellerio, which dates from 1613. (Shame on me!) Nestled on the Rue de la Paix—aka the most expensive street in French Monopoly—right next door to the much larger (and much younger) Cartier, Mellerio proudly claims the title of oldest jeweler in the world. The family came to France from the Valle Vigezzo in northern Italy in the early 16th century, and as jewelers has been serving French and European royalty since Marie de’ Medici granted the family royal protection during her reign. The company is still entirely family owned and operated; it’s now in its 14th generation.
We were treated to a guided tour through the atelier courtesy of Olivier Mellerio, director of the Mellerio Foundation; president of Promosalons, a global network dedicated to promoting French trade shows (and, full disclosure, the sponsor of my trip); and a member of Comité Colbert, a collective of 81 storied French luxury brands—including his family’s company, plus such other high jewelers as Boucheron, Cartier, Lorenz Bäumer, and Van Cleef & Arpels—whose mission is to support French art, craftsmanship, and creativity both at home and abroad. An affable, gracious gentleman who was more than happy to open the proverbial vault to a group of curious international journalists, Mellerio also accompanied us on a few outings throughout the day—including our trip out to the Hermès workshop in Pantin (where we stood mere inches from workers hand-sewing Birkin and Kelly bags!).
Mellerio’s jewels are spectacular (as you can see!), and it was wonderfully heartening to hear someone speak with such pride about his centuries-old family business. Fourteen generations! Now that’s something to aim for.
An amethyst and yellow gold parure (1825)
An Art Deco pearl and diamond necklace (1925)
The order book, back in the day. (This is stored in the basement archive, and only a staffer wearing special gloves is allowed to flip through the pages.)
A sketch of some emeralds ordered by Napoleon III
One of Mellerio’s present-day high jewelry creations: the Myriad necklace, featuring brilliant-cut diamonds and 71.73 cts. t.w. colored sapphires in white gold
Another recent work: the Night Lily necklace, in white gold, diamonds, and carved black onyx
Top: Mellerio’s turquoise and diamond transformable tiara, circa 1860; inset: the family tree