Miniature Artwork On Gold Canvas
Cece Fein Hughes creates a captivating world of lore, legends and fairy tales and is inspired by different moments in history – from the Renaissance to the Victorian era. She also conjures up the meticulous craftsmanship and symbolism of tattoos for her Cece Jewelery collection. Her signet rings and pendants are a small canvas for her enamel artwork – enchanting imagery works that immediately grab your attention and resonate with you on a sentimental and romantic level. Her pieces will delight and intrigue you with their patterns, their sense of proportion and color and their charming approach to high jewelry. An art history graduate at school, the London-based designer changed careers and worked as an intern at Christie’s and Sotheby’s before studying the art of jewelry making and launching her own collection. She talks here about her first relationship with jewelry, her journey, the birth and evolution of the collection.
What was the first piece of jewelry you ever owned?
“A gorgeous Art Deco platinum and emerald ring from the 1920s inherited from my great-grandmother! I always wear the ring mixed with my own pieces. It’s timeless and vintage, but it looks so modern today.
When did you realize you had an interest in jewelry?
Jewelry became one of my growing obsessions when I first visited India as a child. I remember walking through bustling markets and being transfixed by the piles and piles of shimmering multicolored bracelets and gold costume jewelry. It was so vibrant and bubbly at the same time and like most young girls, it brought out the desire to be a princess in me.”
As a young girl, what were your hobbies?
“I was a very sensitive little girl, so I spent much of my childhood drawing and painting, spending hours creating miniature fairy worlds at my grandmother’s house in the countryside.”
Was working in jewelry your first job?
“No. I studied art history at the University of Exeter, dreaming of working in auction houses. I then did multiple internships at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London. However, I never felt close enough to the work and I quickly realized that I was not in the right field. I had a thirst for creativity, so I decided to give up everything and sign up for a short course in jewelry making.
Did you take any other training afterwards and if so, what did you learn?
“I trained as a bench jeweler, so I had to learn how to do everything from early models to soldering, polishing and everything in between. Having always drawn and painted, I also honed my skills on paper. And today, I divide my time between being on the bench and drawing my creations on my kitchen table.
What prompted you to work with enamel? Is there a reason or period that influenced your interest in this medium?
“A ring sparked my obsession with enamel. This is the one I discovered in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. This ring dates from 1830 and is a band with hidden compartments painted all over with beautiful miniature flowers in pink enamel. Inside the compartments, it is written in French: “he loves me, he loves me a little, he loves me passionately, he does not love me at all”. I’m also fascinated by Memento Mori rings from that era; there is something captivating in this period of jewellery, whether French or English”. Although these designs have inspired me, my collection is very different. There is a magical, almost mystical feeling to the patterns, where fantasy and soul come together in miniature, wearable paintings on gold canvases.
What is your favorite piece in the collection and why?
“The Shark & Anchor ring was inspired by my dad who was a deep sea diver and has amazing old fashioned sailor tattoos. When I wear the ring it reminds me of all the stories I he would tell us about the beautiful creatures he encountered under the waves.”
Are there any others that interest you, and can you tell us about them?
“The Snake & Moon motif on the ring and the pendant. It was the first design in my collection, so it will always be close to my heart. I have a fascination with snakes, they are so beautiful the way their bodies move and intertwine yet so terrifying and dangerous. They also have multiple meanings that draw me to them, from rebirth and renewal to eternal love.
The Dove & Rose Power Charm is another that I really like. It was pure joy to create, nothing represents love more than a white dove and a red rose. It is the ultimate representation of inner beauty.
Can you tell us what type of enamel you work with because there are different types?
“I have a fantastic master enameller who has trained his whole life in this specific field. He uses the Champlevé technique, where the glaze is hand painted in opaque colors and fired in a kiln after each different color of paint has been applied. There need to be some higher walls around where the enamel will fill in and when the piece is finished everything is level and looks like miniature paintings.
What pieces do you wear most often and how do you wear them?
“I like to mix it up and wear my signet ring (The Shark & Anchor I mentioned before) on my middle finger and layer it with stacking rings and other golden treasures! I also love wearing The Clam necklace & Pearl alone. It feels like I have a little treasure chest close to my heart.
Do you have a favorite designer or piece of jewelry that you would like to own and mix and wear with your designs?
I love diamonds and I love the way Jessica McCormack works with them. I would love one of her rings and think it would be a perfect addition to my pieces. One day I hope to own one. It will be a tough choice to decide which one though.