“Mother-of-pearl isn’t a sort of plastic”. Well said, Monsieur Mercier! This quote harks from the button-maker, François Mercier, who was at the origins of the SG endeavour. He fabricated the first Samuel Gassmann cufflinks and it’s through him that charming expressions such as découpages de pions (pion cutting) and ecroûtage (disposal of the outer side of a shell to reveal the mother-of-pearl) have fallen into daily usage at rue Monge.
The firm F. Mercier & Co, founded in 1937, was the leading French producer of mother-of-pearl buttons for over three generations. The company was established in the town of Méru, a former artisanal hub and the capital of mother-of-pearl industries. In 1909, the town contained 10,000 button-makers. A century later, with the advent of polyester, the overproduction of plastic buttons as well as the delocalisation of jobs, the local economy incrementally shrunk alongside the exposure of this particular savoir-faire. Francois Mercier is today the last and only mother-of-pearl artisan in France.