Mellerio: Jewelry’s Best Kept Secret

Considered to be one of the oldest jewelry makers in the world and the last independent jewelry house in France, Mellerio Dits Meller, better known as Mellerio, has been in business for over 400 years. Founded in 1613, one of  the first notable customers of Mellerio was none other than Marie de Medici, who married France’s King Henry IV in 1600. Soon after, she became a loyal client of the firm. In some ways it’s not surprising that Marie de Medici was attracted to Mellerio, like her they were originally from Italy.

Mellerio’s Royal Clientele

Mellerio’s client list through the early 20th century reads like a who’s who of European royalty. Sometime around 1776 or 1777 Jean-Baptiste Mellerio made his way to Versailles where he began selling his wares. He was soon discovered by the glamourous and influential Queen Marie-Antoinette, who bought his creations as gifts for friends. Marie-Antoinette’s support gave Mellerio an in with all of the aristocracy in France, which in turn allowed the business to flourish.

The French Revolution ended the relationship with Marie Antoinette, but Mellerio was still a royal favorite. The Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon I, and his two sisters were patrons of the jeweler who in addition to its splendid gems and fine crafting was known for its discretion.

France saw a tremendous amount of political upheaval during the 1700s and 1800s so who was in power and who was out changed rapidly. It wasn’t too long before there was a new power couple in town — King Louis-Phillipe and Queen Marie-Amelie took over the throne in 1830 when the French monarchy was restored. Mellerio had been providing jewelry to the couple before they took the throne after which the firm continued to be a favorite of the royals and their courtiers.

In 1815 the company put down roots in Paris at 9 rue de la Paix and has been at the same location ever since. To this day the Mellerio workshop is located above the boutique that sits discreetly on the street that is home to many of the luxury world’s best known brands.

Mellerio Goes to Spain

During the height of the French Revolution in the mid 1800s, Mellerio made the decision to branch out into Spain, setting up shop in Madrid as Mellerio-Hermanos in 1849. The firm had a way of attracting royalty and soon enough Queen Isabella II became a client. She bought a shell tiara for her daughter, Infanta Isabella, Princess of Asturias for her wedding in 1868 that Mellerio had displayed at the 1867 Paris Exhibition. The shell tiara – which is encrusted with diamonds and has pearl drops — is still part of the Spanish Royal Jewels and has been worn in the recent past by current royal,  Queen Letizia. Mellerio also made Queen Sofia’s floral tiara, which was gifted to her by General Franco on the occasion of her marriage to Juan Carlos of Spain in 1962.

During their time in Spain, Mellerio met the future Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, who was France’s last monarch and an avid fan of the jeweler. One of the firm’s most famous pieces was a peacock feather brooch, a favored motif at Mellerio, made for Empress Eugenie.

The Italian royals were also in on the action. Victor Emmanuel II commissioned a tiara with a rose pattern for his son, Prince Umberto’s wedding to Margherita of Savoy. And the Dutch royals had a tiara made by Mellerio for Queen Emma. The company also made jewelry for Queen Victoria and the Tsarina of Russia. But it wasn’t only royalty that kept the business thriving. Creatives and titans of business also came to Mellerio for jewelry that was exceptionally well made with fine colored gemstones.

Diamond, ruby sapphire and emerald peacock feather by Mellerio, circa 1868.

Mellerio Today

One of the most high profile pieces that Mellerio makes today is for a different sort of royalty. Since 1981, Mellerio has been making the Coupes des Mousquetaires trophy for the winner of the men’s single tennis competition. The large silver bowl with vine trim, is made specifically for each winner with their name engraved in the metal. The firm also makes the ceremonial sword for members of the Academie Francaise, each one is uniquely decorated with symbols of the owners achievements.

In 2016, Laura-Isbelle Mellerio, a 14th generation member of the family, took the reins as artistic director of the design studio. Laurent, her husband is in charge of  the business end of the company serving as president and managing director.

Ms. Mellerio, who is a graduate of Ecole du Louvre and an interior designer, uses the extensive archives to inspire her designs. Since its inception, over 400 years ago,  the firm has kept meticulous records including ledgers, royal privileges granted by Marie de Medici and of course jewelry designs. Making bespoke pieces and reworking heirloom jewels are a forte of the company all while maintaining the discretion and creativity that has helped this storied jeweler thrive for over 400 years.

Featured image (top of page): Shell tiara, comprised of diamonds and pearls is part of the Spanish Royal Jewels.

Authored by Amber Michelle