The Parisian fine jewelry house Mellerio dits Meller, located at 9 Rue de la Paix, holds in its interior, besides precious jewels, a priceless archive of more than 100,000 documents and illustrations, including sketches and details of jewelry designs created during their more than 400 years of existence. The order book, with worn leather jackets and pages yellowed by time, is worth its weight in gold. Those who handle this historic document are forced to wear specific gloves to avoid endangering its conservation.
A review of Mellerio dits Meller’s archive will reveal the names of prominent figures in the history of France, such as Queen Marie of Medici, who in October 10, 1613 dispensed to the Mellerio family the privilege of unrestricted trade throughout French territory—which marked the beginning of the family business— and Queen Marie Antoinette, under whose patronage Jean-Baptiste Mellerio traded at Versailles. In the historic archives, there are other illustrious names like Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon I, and Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, who was, perhaps, the best client Mellerio dits Meller has had in all its history.
Another sovereign whose name is recorded in the historical documents is Queen Isabela II of Spain, who gave Jean-François Mellerio the title of Supplier to the Royal House when he settled in Madrid after fleeing the Revolution of 1849 in France. Among the pieces the jeweler designed for Isabela II, there is a delicate floral tiara, made with diamonds and set in platinum. Both HRH Queen Sofía and HRH Queen Letizia still wear it today on special occasions. This beautiful piece was a milestone in the jewelry business; it was the first time platinum was used to create a jewel.
1. TRM Queen Sofía of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands wearing Mellerio dits Meller tiaras.
2. HRH Queen Letizia of Spain wears the floral tiara by Mellerio dits Meller.
3. HRH Queen Maxima of the Netherlands wears a sapphire tiara created by Mellerio dits Meller.
4. HRH Queen Maxima of the Netherlands wears a ruby tiara created by Mellerio dits Meller.
The documents also attest to the two tiaras, one ruby and one sapphire, that Queen Enma of the Netherlands commissioned from Mellerio in 1889, which HRH Queen Maxima of Holland currently wears for unique events.
Previously, Empress Eugenie of France had acquired, in 1868, one of the most iconic creations of the house: a peacock shaped brooch that had been presented months before, to great acclaim, at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. The Peacock brooch, made with diamonds, platinum, gold and enamel, eventually became a distinctive favorite design of the legendary French jewelry house.
Other interesting entries in the order ledger lie outside the realm of European royal houses. This is the case of the Spanish dancer Anita Delgado, who in 1908, became Maharani of Kapurthala, India.
On the occasion of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the fine jewelry label—which claims to be the oldest in the world—loyal customers flocked to the emblematic Mellerio dits Meller place in the French capital. “We want people to see the rich history of our heritage,” said Laurent Baty, general manager of the family business. “Let them see the documents and jewels that show who we are.”
Mellerio dits Meller goes back fourteen generations. During this time, the French firm survived several wars, a revolution, more than one change of regime and the Nazi occupation of Paris and has catered, uninterruptedly, to members of various royal families, aristocrats as well as the European social elite, always keeping up with the aesthetic preferences of the times.
For François and Olivier Mellerio, co-presidents of Mellerio dits Meller, having survived as an independent family business in an era in which all the most important jewelry houses have been absorbed by large luxury conglomerates, is a high achievement and a great source of pride. And to celebrate its rich history of success, the famous Parisian firm has launched the Medici collection in collaboration with the French-Canadian master jeweler Edéenne, who applied pearls, diamonds and colorful gems to spectacular jewelry inspired by the lily, a flower that Mellerio had never before included in its designs.
Another surprise of the celebrations was the publication of the monograph Mellerio dits Meller, Joaillier des Reines (Mellerio dits Meller, Jewelers of Queens) by Vincent Meylan, illustrated with beautiful images from the family archives. In its pages, we can discover the fascinating history of one of the world’s most celebrated and oldest jewelry houses. ■