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The Mellerio family traces its history in the jewellery trade back as far as the early 16th century when a group of them left their native Italy to settle in France in 1515. They were chimney sweeps and peddlers who travelled from town to town carrying their wares on their backs and selling them from small wooden trays suspended from their necks.
In 1613 the family, of whom there were many members (making their history somewhat complex) were granted the royal protection of Marie de Medici, Queen of France. This afforded them the privilege of trading not only in Paris but throughout the kingdom without having to submit to the usual taxes and administrative restrictions. This was upheld for almost 150 years, by all successive Kings until Louis XVI.
In 1801 François Mellerio, who had spent some time back in Italy training under Manini, an important Milanese jeweller, established himself on the Rue du Coq-Saint-Honoré. From modest beginnings he gradually built a successful business thanks in no small part to the Comtesse de Ségur who was lady in waiting to the Empress Josephine. Impressed with his work and already a client herself, she engineered an introduction to the Empress who is believed to have made several purchases on the spot. This sealed his reputation and by 1815 he had opened premises on the Rue de la Paix with his brother Jean-Jacques at No. 22. In 1830 they were appointed official supplier to the Royal family under Louis-Philippe I and their innovative, transformable jewels in the naturalistic style were widely admired. In 1832 François’ son Jean- François joined his father in the business followed a year later by his brother Antoine. In 1836 the firm moved up the road to No. 5 (now No.9) which they had bought three years previously as an investment.
The firm exhibited widely at the world fairs which were popular during the 19th Century beginning in Paris in 1855 followed by London 1862, Paris 1867, Rome 1870, Vienna 1873 and Paris again in 1878. At all of these they were awarded medals for their beautifully designed and meticulously crafted jewels and in Paris in 1867 had secured a particularly prestigious new client. Queen Isabel II of Spain purchased one of their most stunning creations, a diamond encrusted tiara which represents one of the earliest known uses of platinum for fine jewellery. Soon after, they received another Royal appointment, this time to the King of Italy who ordered a wonderful ‘Wild Flower and Laurel Branch’ tiara for his future daughter-in-law, Margherita of Savoy, to wear on her wedding day to his son.
Their list of Royal clients continued to grow as their participation in the World Fairs introduced them to an ever widening audience. For Queen Emma of the Netherlands they made a highly impressive neo-classical style ruby and diamond suite in 1888 which has been in continuous use ever since and is still worn by the current Queen, Maxima.
As the 19th century moved into the 20th their jewels reflected the changing aesthetics of the period with dainty, feminine garland style jewels seguing into the bolder more geometric designs of the Art Deco period. During the 1950s the firm collaborated with numerous Couture Houses such as Balenciaga, Dior and Patou combining beautiful jewels with fashionable clothes at a variety of shows and events. The 1960s saw the firm experiment with a wider range of ornamental and organic materials than before such as precious corals ranging from the palest peach to the deepest orange which were contrasted against brilliant and baguette diamonds to great effect. More recently they have branched into sporting trophies and watches as well as designing their own unique gemstone cut. In 2013 they celebrated their 400th anniversary and the business continues today under the guidance of the 14th generation of the Mellerio family from the Rue de la Paix premises they have called home for almost two hundred years.