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As 2013 comes to an end I feel this is the proper time to recognize a truly monumental achievement in the jewelry industry. The Parisian jewelry house, Mellerio dits Meller, spent this year celebrating its 400th anniversary.
The luxury jeweler, whose client list over the centuries includes nearly all of European royalty, is now in its 14th generation of family ownership and continual operation. It is considered to be the oldest jeweler in the world and the oldest family-owned company in Europe, as well as some other claims of longevity. It has the original books and paperwork to back up those claims in its rich archives, which are kept in its 9 Rue de la Paix boutique and workshop.
The firm specializes in hand-made haute joaillerie (high jewelry), most of it created on premise. The company was founded by the Mellerio family in 1613 in the rural region of northern Italy that borders Switzerland. It was created because of an act of royalty. Specifically, Marie de’ Medici, Queen of France, granted special privileges to the Mellerio family by royal decree, which allowed the family firm to trade throughout much of Europe. Royalty has run through the jeweler’s veins ever since.
The family firm started trading in Versailles in 1777, and attracted the patronage of its most famous client, Marie Antoinette. In 1796, the firm moved to Rue Vivienne, Versailles, retaining the patronage of the Empress Josephine. The family firm then moved to Paris eventually settling at 9 Rue de la Paix.
The company opened a second shop in Madrid in 1850 to service the Spanish royal family, including Queen Isabella II. It has a long close relationship with the Dutch royal court. It also operates in Luxembourg and Japan.
Olivier and François Mellerio are the 14th generation of the dynasty who currently operate the business. I spoke with Laurent Baty, general manager, briefly and another company official that will be used for a story in 2014. I asked if there were any plans ever to sell the business and the answer was a resounding no, as the family takes great pains to remain independent.
To celebrate its milestone the company created a high jewelry collection named after its founding patron, Marie de’ Medici, which represents the grand history of the royal jeweler.
To create the Medici collection, the family looked into its past using its rich archives. They also invited well-known jewelry designer, Edéenne, a Canadian native who now works in Paris. She created modern interpretations of jewelry inspired by the old drawings.
The result is a collection of pieces inspired by nature that are sensual, complex and at the same time easy to wear. There are openwork pieces and items made with “grey” gold. There are pieces that are rough in texture, recreating an antique feel. And of course there’s a tiara. In this case one that converts into a necklace, which harkens back to 19th Century jewelry usage.