Retro Gold Tank Bracelet by Mellerio dits Meller, Paris, circa 1950, Manufactured by Jacques Lenfant for Georges Lenfant, Paris
A bracelet composed of polished gold interlocking u-shaped links; 18-karat gold
- Signed Mellerio dits Meller with maker’s mark for George Lenfant
- Measurements: 7 5/8 x 5/8 inches
Mellerio dits Meller is one of the most important names in jewelry. Established in 1613, it is the oldest continually operating firm. They made jewelry for the wives of the most powerful monarchs in the world: the French queens, including Marie de' Medici, Marie Antoinette, and Empress Josephine. Mellerio made The Vanderbilt Rose, one of the most important jewels in the world, for Princess Eugenie of France. The diamond-set rose was later purchased by Cartier who sold the piece to Mrs. Vanderbilt. The firm moved to Paris in 1816, to rue de la Paix in the location they remain at today.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the gold bracelet became an important piece in any woman’s wardrobe. The restrictions on jewelers and supply chains during World War II meant that stones were difficult to get, and platinum was impossible. Jewelers innovated with the materials they had on hand and looked to industrial objects for design inspiration. Some of the best gold bracelets were created during this time.
Jacques Lenfant became known for his superb goldwork in the 1950s. He created necklaces and bracelets, each more complex than the last, that played with movement and texture. Lenfant, created gold pieces for all the best jewelry houses including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Tiffany & Co., and Mellerio dits Mellor. Lenfant looked at chains as a “harmony of sounds, shapes and textures” as he wrote in his book Le livre de la chaîne. He referred to the “rustle of rolling parts, which slide against each other [like] chain bells.”
This tank bracelet is composed of polished gold u-shaped pieces that glitter in the light. The interlocking pieces evoke the treads of an armored tank, celebrating the Machine Age, but they also draw on the foliate tradition in jewelry and are similar to the palmette bracelets Lenfant made for Boucheron. The designer in this piece was subtly playing with the popular motifs of the era and created a bracelet that balances between the machine and the natural world. This important bracelet a desirable collaboration between two important jewelry companies and is an iconic bracelet design.