Friday morning in Paris. My eyes popped open before the alarm went off. The sun was glimpsing into my hotel room around the edges of the curtain, calling out for me to have a noisette at the cafétéria next door. Stepping out of the building I understand that this is not the Muscat sun, and the late November ice-age in Paris wakes me up immediately. I realize again that I was designed for the summer and not the presently 1-2C degree cold European winter. Croissant, orange juice, noisette; my brain boots and soon I feel the warmth all over – today I’ll see the cellar of hidden treasures.
I make my way to where the story of the luxury shopping street Rue de la Paix started, at building number 9. It was in 1815 when Mellerio dits Meller a jewellery with Italian origins opened the row of jewellers and high-end shops to relocate here. The history of the company dates back a further 200 years, to 1613. The jewellery house is still owned and run by the Mellerio family and 9, Rue de la Paix is the exclusive boutique of the company, which also serves as the workshop and administrative headquarters of the firm.
As a European valuing deeply rooted heritage and family traditions, please allow me to describe my visit to the four century-old establishment a little more subjectively. This time, instead of new collections, exciting designs and trends I was more excited to breathe in the air of Mellerio and to understand what made the firm stay true to what they’ve always been known for: being the independent craftspeople of royalties.
The whole building exudes a scent of wood – that was my first impression. The second was that my brother would have loved the antique furniture. Every room in the building I saw had its own character and charm. They offered an intimate setting for business, while secretly keeping the conversations with prominent clients safe within their walls. Hidden doors were embodied invisibly, in case even getting sighted was to be avoided.
While getting engaged in the conversation I could not help admiring the perfectly functional and aesthetical architecture of the green saloon. Just as it was explicitly designed for gemstone examination, the ceiling let the natural light in, bringing the pistachio coloured room alive.
Mellerio is still a family business. It does not advertise and the only boutique is under these roofs. You can argue whether in today’s world such exclusivity is the way forward, but what has worked for such a long time must have its rationale. Most of the company’s customers are still from France and Japan, where they work with local distributors. Pieces created by the Maison in the upper floors rarely change hands and when any pieces are announced for auction, collectors are thrilled.
I find out that Mellerio is preparing a special 400th anniversary collection that will be presented to the media next summer and to their clientele in the autumn via private events. Symbolically on the 4th centenary, the company is renewing their online presence, as well.
Suddenly I get a chance only a fool would refuse – shall we go down to the library in the basement to browse a few designs and books? We descend one floor into a small exhibition hall. In the glass cabinets the figures of the Musicians and Horses collections carved in rock crystal line up one by one. I learn that these artistic ornaments made of precious stones, jewels and metals are characteristic of Mellerio.
My eye catches a wooden backpack wearing the marks of time. It once belonged to Jean-Marie Mellerio, who before the Mellerios had a shop on Rue de la Paix sold jewellery from this chest at the gates of Versailles. According to the story, Marie-Antoinette also purchased a few pieces and granted permission for Jean-Marie to sell his merchandise within the fences of the Palace.
Our way lead us another level further down. The walls have been left in their natural purity, lacking whitewash and painting. They highlight the beauty of the antique dark brown furniture standing all around. On the floor, a set of heavy cutlery musters line up next to each other. The cabinets are full of books probably older than the cabinets themselves. We open one laid down on the small study – drawings of Mellerio designs and notes from the golden ages of 19th century listing customers from princes, viceroys and kings to emperors.
A few designs manifested in jewels are brought forth; three amazing vintage brooches from the Mellerio dits Meller collection. The Tremblant brooch from 1854 is silver on gold with diamonds. It was made for the Exposition Universelle (International Exhibition, held on the Champs-Elysées in Paris from May 15 to November 15, 1855). The flower has delicate trembling petal-pieces, which make the whole brooch a living decoration.
The Stomacher brooch is silver on gold with diamonds and emeralds from circa 1860. These types in the 15th century were originally designed to cover the front of the bodice. Later as fashion changed, stomachers were divided into smaller brooches.
One of my favourite pieces today was the Knot brooch from circa 1880. Silver on gold like a graceful lace with diamonds.
I can remember the scents very well. Having felt Mellerio’s while walking around in 9, Rue de la Paix – it will not fade from my memory, I’m sure. I had an exciting journey in time, fitting seamlessly to my weekend in Paris dedicated to timeless arts. I did realize one thing here. There is something special beyond the artistic excellence and the professional attitude in companies like Mellerio dits Meller. Whenever talking with members of these firms besides the knowledge they demonstrate I can sense the infinite respect, bond and pride they have to their heritage and you can see this shining in their eyes as they speak. It is a tangible professional happiness and humility. I think this is what sets them apart.
Mellerio is relatively less known in the Middle East; however the manufacture started to bring their masterpieces closer to the regional audience. They participated at Jewellery Arabia this October and will also showcase their designs at the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition in February. And whenever you’re in Paris, go and see what story the building of hidden treasures tells you.
Dear Diane-Sophie, Margherita and Laurent, thank you for the pleasant morning!
Photo credits: Mellerio dits Meller, Loupiosity.com.
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