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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Paris Haute Jewelry Scene Sparkles

Antique Amethyst and gold set created by Mellerio dits Meller

The rain fell as I was retrieving my Rail Europe ticket at the Gare de Lyon rail station. The spring rain in Paris is often romanticized in books and movies. But this was just a cold, hard drizzle, marking a sad goodbye to an exceptional four days in the “City of Light.”

In a brief period of time I was able to visit the oldest family-owned jewelry firm in the world, meet with one of the top independent jewelry designers in the city and an up-and-coming independent designer who is making a mark creating haute couture jewelry with an edge. 
Inside Mellerio dits Meller

My last meeting was the most anticipated and the most memorable. As I have written in the past, Mellerio dits Meller is the oldest family-owned jewelry business. It is a claim rather than a fact in that there may be others out there that are older. However, no one else has stepped forward. What is fact is its history from the beginning is fully documented, with almost all the records in the store. This is indisputable. In fact, the business may have been in operation up to 100 years before its first 1613 documentation.

I spent an afternoon there with Larent Baty, Diane-Sophie Lanselle and Emilie Merillio, board president and the 15th generation family member working at the company. 

Part of the archives at Mellerio dits Meller

Being old is only part of the story with this firm located at 9 Rue de la Paix, a stone’s throw from Place Vandome. As the jeweler to royalty in France and most of Europe, it was front and center as a continent controlled by monarchies gradually changed to democratic rule. Its meticulous archives located two floors below the oak-paneled sales floor chronicles this history in sales receipts written in worn large-bound books. One inscription reads of a sale to a member of the French monarchy on July 14, 1789. This is Bastille Day. “She was certainly optimistic,” Lanselle said. 

Historic drawings

One floor above contains what is basically an historic exhibition of its jewels through the past 200 years or so loaned to them from the established families who still do business with Mellerio. A necklace, earrings and tiara made of large round amethyst gems set in and crowned by yellow gold filigree. A white ribbon made of gold-plated silver and diamond pave. An unusual piece is gold jewelry designed to be placed over fingernails.  

The jeweler still caters to royalty but this time it is the family rulers from the Middle East who walk through the doors. It also serves a new royalty, the business elite. Some of the names include … well, Emilie Mellerio would not say. “We are discreet.” 

A lace pearl and emerald necklace part of the Mellerio dits Meller anniversary collection.

It is an exclusive shop but you don’t need an appointment to enter. Just like the Cartier store practically next door you can come in from the street. It also provides something that other corporate-owned jewelers and watchmakers cannot: value. Baty, the general manager, explains it’s because nearly all of the jewels are made in a workshop above the store. So custom-made or limited-edition pieces are made on premise and without the added cost of supporting the marketing, advertising and in many cases the corporate structure of a conglomerate-owned business.

While it is an exclusive company there’s also a recognition that this is a small family owned, entrepreneurial business. There’s no pretense among the managers. Emilie, who previously worked for LVMH, explained that everyone, including herself, do a number of jobs to keep the business humming.

I previously wrote about the 400th-anniversary collection the company released last spring. I received a first-hand look at the pieces. They were created by Parisian jewelry designer Edéenne. In a stroke of luck I met the designer with her agent, Erwann Bigot, whom I contacted as a way of getting an introduction to the Parisian high jewelry world. 

A magic carpet by Edéenne

Edéenne is more than a jeweler. She is a storyteller who specializes in making custom jewelry pieces for clients based on their own personal histories, aspirations and even fantasies. She will interview a client for two hours before deciding on the piece she will create. She also creates pieces based on movies and books; and occasionally special creations. 

A lantern with three diamonds inside instead of wishes by Edéenne.

The thing about Edéenne that makes her stand out to me is that I can’t discern a particular style in her pieces. She showed me pieces that were wildly different from one another. Whether it’s a white gold ring containing a carved flower inside as if it is in a bubble or a large flower-shaped emerald inside a flower-shaped ring. 

A flower inside of a sapphire crystal bubble by Edéenne.
One hallmark about her pieces is that they are often “engineered” to perform multiple tasks. For example, a magic carpet ring made of white gold and emeralds is paired with petite lantern pendant necklace. When “rubbed” or opened at the top it reveals, instead of three wishes, three round faceted diamonds.

Long white gold and diamond ring by Pamela Hastry.
Finally, there’s Pamela Hastry and her brand Morphée Joaillerie, whose office/showroom I visited. She opened her business in September and quickly made inroads in the UK and Europe. She’s well-versed in social media so she is known in the US as well. She describes her pieces as haute jewelry with a street edge. 

A sapphire pave bird perches on a by white goby ld twig Pamela Hastry.

The Belgium native who speaks impeccable French and English makes limited edition collections that have the traditional delicacy of fine French jewelry but with a slant that would be appealing for a more fashion-or-trend conscience consumer with taste. Her earrings are made to be worn on the side and above the ears. Her long, open-worked rings, whether for one or two fingers, run above and turn slightly along the side of the finger.

This is just an overview of what I saw during my short stay in Paris. Each person and business will receive special treatment in the future. For now it’s time for Baselworld.

 Please join me on the Jewelry News Network Facebook Page, on Twitter @JewelryNewsNet and on the Forbes website.

1 comment:

  1. Edienne is unimaginably creative, I hope to meet her one day too. As for Morphee...the brand will go far.