Mellerio is a French jewellery house, based in Paris, which claims to be the oldest jewellers in the world.
Originally from Lombardia in Italy, their lineage has been traced back as far as the 11th century. Originally just “Mellerio”, customers found it easier to shorten the name to Meller, so one often finds the name written as “Mellerio dits Meller”. Jerome Mellerio emigrated to Paris from Italy in 1540. He worked as a merchant-pedlar, and also sold jewels. The family were first based in Rue des Lombards, which was where all of the immigrants from that area came to stay when first arriving in Paris. He travelled the country to provincial fairs, selling his wares.
In 1613 Marie de Medici granted her protection to the Mellerio family for “services rendered to the Kingdom of France”, which legend says was the discovery by a family member of a plot to incite the assassination of the young King Louis XIII.
Jean-Marie Mellerio (1691-1792) was a most interesting member of the family; married twice, he had ten children. The ninth, Jean-Baptiste, was especially intelligent and talented at business. One day, when the boy was 12, he and his father travelled to Versailles. Jean-Marie set up his stall in the town square, while the son was instructed to linger near the palace. The boy noticed that all of the elegant carriages arrived and left via the iron gates that lead to Paris. He set up a small stall outside the gates and waited. As Queen Marie Antoinette arrived back to the palace, she noticed the boy, and asked her attendants to see what was being sold. So persuasive was the boy that the lady-in waiting agreed to buy several items.
The boy stayed at that spot for the duration of his father’s stay in Versailles. Gradually he became known, and carried out orders with speed and precision. He became supplier to Royal servants and employees, and soon gained access to the palace, from where he became known to the courtiers. He quickly built a fine business, and by the age of 20 had amassed both a good stock and a wonderful clientele.
However, following the French Revolution, most of the family left Paris for a few years, leaving behind Francois Mellerio to look after the business.
Eventually they returned, and opened a shop at number 20, Rue Vivienne. Josephine, then the Queen of Italy was a customer. Later, when she was Empress of France, she was a significant client, and her patronage (along with the other clients whose business followed the Empress’) allowed the business to grow and flourish. In 1815 they moved into 22 Rue de la Paix, and in 1836 they moved again to 5, Rue de la Paix.
Around this time Baron de Montmorency introduced Francois to Queen Marie-Amelie, wife of King Louis-Philippe. The Queen was delighted to find someone with whom she could speak Italian, her mother tongue. He was appointed as supplier to the Queen, and was requested to call on her every day.
Following the Revolution of 1848, Jean-Francois, son of Francois, fled to Spain, bringing as much stock as possible. He was extremely successful in Spain, and was appointed supplier to Queen Isobel.
The business grew and grew, and earned international recognition – they exhibited at the London World Exhibition of 1862, in Paris in 1867, in Vienna in 1873, and again in Paris in 1878 and 1900. Jean Mellerio was awarded the cross of the Legion d’Honneur in 1878.
They also became Royal Jewellers in the Netherlands, and in the image below we can see tiaras made by Mellerio for the Royal Houses of both Spain and the Netherlands. The tiara worn by Queen Letizia of Spain is particularly interesting, as it is believed to be the first time platinum was used in a jewel
The business continues today, directors François and Olivier Mellerio are the fourteenth generation to run the family business, an extraordinary achievement in any field. In 1981 they were commissioned to make the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the trophy awarded to the winner of the Men’s Singles title at the French Open tennis tournament
They recently launched a new collection, the Medici Collection, which includes an astonishing necklace “The Medici Collarette”, with 35 carats of Rubies, over 60 carats of diamonds and took 4800 hours to create!