Category Archives: Art Nouveau

Mellerio dits Meller

Mellerio dits Meller is the oldest family-owned jewelry company in Europe, spanning 14 generations. In 1515, the first Mr. Mellerio left Italy for Paris because he heard there was opportunity there. His family started the company in 1613.

As Jean-Baptiste Mellerio was vending his wares in front of the Château de Versailles, he attracted the attention of Marie-Antoinette. She became a regular patron in 1777. He created this cameo bracelet for her, which expressed Versailles’ court intrigue, as some cameos face each other to converse, and some don’t. Just before Marie-Antoinette went to the guillotine, she gave the bracelet to a confidante. It survived in tact, and today is kept in a safe.

Empress Josephine also had jewelry made for her by Jean-Baptiste, such as this amethyst parure.

In 1815, the company set up shop on the Rue de la Paix, where it remains to this day.

Jean-Francois Mellerio made this diamond-and-pearl tiara, which Queen Isabel II of Spain bought for her daughter, the Infanta Isabel, Princess of Asturias, for her wedding in 1867.

During the Paris Exposition Universelle 1900, Mellerio dits Meller presented 12 pieces based on the peacock. Here is the “Paon Royal” head dress, which was made in gold and platinum with cloisonné and diamonds.

Serpents have always played a powerful role in world religions. They guarded Buddah. In Genesis, a serpent represented the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Two serpents facing each other reflected both themes in Art Nouveau jewelry. Mellerio dits Meller made this exquisite diamond and platinum diadem in 1921. Do the two snakes represent good and evil? Or, they are guarding the diamond pendant. I think the snakes play both roles, which makes this an art deco masterpiece.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library

Serpentina: Snake Jewellery from Around the World

Art Nouveau: The French Aesthetic


Child & Child Tiara and Comb

In 1848, English painter William Holman Hunt founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. They rejected what they considered to be the mechanistic approach of Mannerist artists, who came after Michelangelo and Raphael, for a more elegant, intensely colored, and sophisticated style. Mr. Hunt was a regular client of Child & Child (1880-1916), a jewelry firm known for its bright, detailed enamel representations of the natural world.

The wings of this tiara are engraved to look like feathers and enamelled in translucent blue. Instead of a bird’s head and eyes, the designer substituted a large citrine to symbolize the sun. The piece has two ideas, firm lines, unique imagination, and pays homage to Europe’s fascination with Egyptian Revival.

Winged tiaras and combs were quite popular to wear at the opera. Mostly, they were made of diamonds and other precious jewels. However, Child & Child came up with these bright green enamel wings dotted by diamonds and blue sapphires. It could be worn as a brooch, but as with many British pieces, it also came with a tortoiseshell comb fitting.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

The Comb: Its History and Development


Timeless Tiaras

The Creative Museum: From Art Nouveau to Art Deco, part 1

Highlighting intricately carved and painted horn combs, The Creative Museum defines the link between Art Nouveau and the mysterious delicacy of women. Women became inextricably linked to flowers, wearing jewelry whose wavy lines expressed a wild and spontaneous nature.

Japanese influence impacted subject matter, as insects, stems and buds caught artists’ attention. Lalique was the first one to use horn and discover the material’s possibilities. Others followed. Hair comb art became the equal of its engineering, as flowers grew on trellises and dragonflies flew across ponds.

Here are just a few pieces from The Creative Museum’s Art Nouveau collection. To see the rest of them, put in historical narrative, I urge everyone to see the presentation.

Diamond Hair Combs at Sotheby’s

It’s amazing what different artists can do with the same idea.

Boucheron made this curved diamond tiara c. 1910 in London. One could attach it to the blonde tortoiseshell comb fitting with a screwdriver. It sold for 15,600 GBP on December 15, 2005.

This diamond-and-pearl tiara hinged to a tortoiseshell comb is unsigned. In the center is large natural pearl, which can be taken out of the diamond openwork surrounding it. c. 1890. Sale price: 13,200 GBP on June 29, 2006.

Using diamonds to make this brooch look like lace, Cartier added comb and choker fittings together with a screwdriver. c. 1890. It sold for $181,000 on December 4, 2007.

Tiffany & Co. aced Art Deco design in this arrangement of diamonds, seed pearls, and platinum openwork, set on a tortoiseshell comb, c. 1910. It sold for $11,875 on December 9, 2008.

I’ll end with Art Nouveau master George Fouquet. He scrolled the top of this comb, making opal leaves, flowered with diamonds. A centerpiece of amethyst, diamonds, and gold completed his blonde tortoiseshell comb. c. 1900. Signed G.Fouquet, it sold for 7500 GBP on December 15, 2009.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Boucheron: The Secret Archives

Cartier and America

Tiffany & Co.

Lalique Diadem at Christie’s

René Lalique integrated sculpture, Symbolist philosophy, Japanese ideas, and new materials to reign as the genius of Art Nouveau design. He was also a keen observer of daily life. How many children would place garlands Christmas trees?

In this diadem, tree branches of green enamel and small diamond flowers are decorated with a mabe pearl garland. It sold at Christie’s for $112,561 on June 17, 2008.

The Creative Museum is premiering a new exhibition, From Art Nouveau to Art Deco on July 21, 2012. “This exhibition provides an insight into the characteristics of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. An in-depth study of the influence of these two movements on hair ornaments and styles yields meaningful findings.”

I hope everyone attends.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

The Paris Salons, 1895-1914: Jewellery, Vol. 2: The Designers L-Z

Imperishable Beauty

Sotheby’s Catalog: Fouquet Jewelry

Rene Lalique: Glass in Jewelry

Lalique dazzled the public, carving combs of flowers and butterflies using new materials, such as ivory, bronze, and horn. But in 1901, he was the first to exhibit crystal-glass jewelry at the Exhibition of the Paris Salon. These four pieces show how he developed his idea.

In 1897-98, Lalique cast a mermaid in bronze. She has three fins. The outer two are solid, decorated with small emeralds, and swirl to encase opals. The middle fin is divided in three, as the engineering element that forms the prongs of the diadem. Highlighting her long, flowing hair, the mermaid also holds up a third opal.

In this 1905 corsage spray, Lalique uses plique-à-jour enamel, glass, and diamonds to depict insects pollinating a flower. It resides in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

Here is a comparison of a lovers’ kiss in an ivory comb c.1902

and the same idea done in a brooch of molded glass encased in silver, also at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau Jewellery from Pforzheim

Man Of Glass ( L’homme De Verre )

The Creative Museum World Tour

Another blog wrote about them: Le Blog de Cameline! She tells the story of the family in French. This post will be an English translation, and then I will pick some of my favorite combs from this magnificent collection, so we can enjoy both posts.

Cameline says, “The Creative Museum is a virtual museum devoted to hair ornaments.

Its history began 100 years ago, when Little Leona accompanied her military husband around the world. As she traveled, she collected treasures, which she kept in a shoe box. Upon her death, her grandchildren found the box. Wonder and passion was instantly exchanged through the generations.”

It was a moment that changed the family’s life forever. The grandchildren — thinking out of the box? (don’t kill me you guys :-) — collected over 2500 hair ornaments from all over the world and became scholars on their history. Chosen with a great eye, bought with bargaining acumen, written about beautifully, and photographed brilliantly, this collection is documented online for the world to see.

It has made its way into real museums, and the site is famous for its virtual exhibitions. The value of Leona’s passion has been realized. I cannot help but think of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest poets, who hid her genius in a trunk, too, until her family opened it and had an epiphany.

Cameline chose her favorite pieces from The Creative Museum, so I encourage everyone to read her post. But here are a few of mine:

This bearded mask wears a traditional bird comb, a symbol of fertility. From the Kpeliye Brotherhood of the Senufo people, they are worn at the Royal Court. It comes from the Ivory Coast, c. 1950.

This tortoiseshell hairpin features a claw from a bird of prey. It is from North America.

This Afghan barrette dangles pendants below red and green gemstones. c. 1940.

Two phoenixes face each other in this 19th Century Chinese jade comb.

English Art Nouveau jewelers made this brass woman with flowers instead of feet and a crescent on her head.

In Japan, they loved ravens. The Meiji style has the drawing fold over to the back of the kushi.

Swedish silversmiths were well known for their Minimalist style, as in this wedding tiara with pearls and tourmalines designed by Ulf Sandberg of Göteborg.

When celluloid was invented in 1862, comb-making machines lowered the cost of production considerably. In France, the industry center was in Oyonnax. Innovative design thrived with the flexibility new plastics and speed of production. This hand-painted daisy comb is a prime example of a comb made between the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.

Completing our world tour is a stop in New Guinea, where ancestor worship was predominant in the culture. From the Keram River area in a Kambot village comes this bamboo hair pin.


For more scholarly research, please examine the publications of the Creative Museum, as well as these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde


Georges Fouquet Hair Combs

Sotheby’s is selling two combs by Georges Fouquet. One is a piece with different fittings, enabling the wearer to choose whether she wants a pendant, brooch, or comb, and the other is made of tortoiseshell. Final sale prices have been posted.

For our first piece, fan-shaped green, black, and white enamel lotuses elaborate a turquoise frame. The center jewel is a turquoise cabocohon, on top of which is a triangular opal. The piece is edged by diamonds and set in 18K gold, c. 1910. Signed signed G. Fouquet, # 2349. It comes in its original rose-colored leather, silk and velvet box, which is also signed G. Fouquet, 6. Rue Royale, Paris. Price estimate: $60,000 – $80,000. Sale price: $74,500.

On the second comb, look at the translucence in the blonde tortoiseshell. The artist chose an Egyptian theme by carving lotus and papyrus designs. Dotted by opals and accented with black and green enamel, the comb is signed G. Fouquet, #4680. It also comes in its original box. c. 1905 – 1908. Price estimate: $10,000 – $15,000. Sale price: $22,500.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

Sotheby’s Catalog: Fouquet Jewelry

Art Nouveau Jewelry

The Comb: Its History and Development

Some Lovely Things on Ebay

We are beauty hunters. Some lovely things have sold on E-bay at good prices, while other nice pieces are still for sale.

This emerald, pearl, and diamond Victorian parure was sent in by one of our community’s subscribers. I was so pleased to hear from her. Thank you! If another subscriber finds something delicious, you are more than welcome to send me a picture at

This parure comes from Austria, c. 1870, with hallmarks. It is made from 14K gold, sterling silver, faceted and cabachon emeralds, rose-cut diamonds, and pearls. The emeralds are mostly light green, however, the two cabachons at the bottom of the necklace have the beautiful deep-green color you want to see. The set comes in its original box. Price: $29,500.

This beautiful metal kanzashi from The Miriam Slater Collection has many meanings. The bent wire represents water. The crane signifies honor and loyalty. A silver rock anchors a floral bouquet. I will guess that the cuts in the circular pieces of dangling metal are a family crest. It is on sale for $225, a nice price for a rare, elaborate piece.

This 19th-Century Indian ivory comb was mislabled “Antique Victorian Ornately Carved Ox Bone Double Comb.” The Creative Museum has one. Whoever got this, even with the broken piece on the top left, for $63.91 did very well.

French Art Nouveau innovators like Louis Aucoc, who employed Rene Lalique, ornamented clarified horn with pearls to create jewelry that mirrored the natural world. He had many followers, among them Lucien Galliard. This art nouveau horn comb is beautifully translucent, with scrolling on the edges. Its three asymmetrical pearls are just enough, but not too much — a stunning piece. Unsigned, it sold for $639.07.

This real tortoiseshell, gold, and pearl art nouveau back comb is a classic beauty in excellent condition. It sold for $219.30.

Lastly, a dealer misidentified this silver comb as a “Spanish Mantilla Bird.” Well, first, a mantilla is a veil. The peineta that holds up the mantilla is much larger, and the comb is American. The hallmark indicates that it was made by Knowles & Ladd of Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1870. I do love the bird though. It sold for $145.


For more research on comb identification and values, please examine these books, which can all be found in our Resource Library.

Hair Combs: Identification & Values

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

Piel Frères Egyptian Revival Hair Comb

Piel Frères was started by Alexandre Piel in 1855. Working with sculptor and artistic director Gabriel Stalin, they sculpted beautiful designs, using gilded inexpensive materials and made jewelry that looked luxurious for a fraction of the price.

Choosing silver, celluloid, horn, copper and brass, ornamented with enamel, stone, or glass inlays, the firm won a Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle in 1900. Belt buckles became their specialty, but of course, they also made hair combs.

Here is an ivory hair comb with a champlevé-enameled Egyptian Revival relief, c. 1905. Champlevé is a technique where a shape is carved into the metal surface, vitreous enamel (powdered glass) is poured in, and then fired. The edges are polished down when the metal cools. The comb is selling for $5,500.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

The Belle Epoque of French Jewellery, 1850-1910
Christie’s Art Nouveau

Paris. Exposition Universelle, 1900.