Catbird Spotlight: Cece Jewellery
We are so excited to announce the international debut of CECE JEWELLERY. A collection of 18k gold necklaces and rings featuring the finest enameling, as if painted by a single kitten whisker.
We chatted a bit with Cecelia Hughes aka Cece, an art historian turned jeweler, to find out more about her process and inspiration behind her pieces - including a very special Catbird exclusive.
What is your first jewelry memory?
Travelling around India with my family and becoming obsessed with all the jewellery sold in the markets - packs and packs of gold and multicoloured sparkly bangles… a little girls heaven!
What does jewelry mean to you?
It's my form of expression. Being a jeweller who works from home, means 90% of the time I'm wearing comfy leggings and an oversized T-shirt, jewellery is my way of making me feel fabulous (even in PJs).
What originally sparked your interest in pursuing jewelry design?
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness after leaving university, which meant I couldn’t live life at the same pace as other 20-something year olds! This also put a lot of pressure on my mental health. After taking a year to slow down and soul search, I found jewellery making! Being able to create with my hands was so therapeutic that I fell in love instantly… I have now recovered fully from my illness, but wouldn’t have changed it for the world, as it led me to where I am today.
What historical jewelry / art are you inspired by?
Both Byzantine & traditional Indian jewellery!
What has been your favorite design to make from this selection?
I would say the Catbird exclusive The Swan & Reed. It was my first time creating an enamel design based on someone else’s idea and it was so exciting to be able to bring it to life!
Can you describe the process of making these pieces?
There are 5 crucial steps to the making of each piece, all meticulously thought through and carefully executed…
Design. All my pieces start at my kitchen table surrounded by books such as ‘V&A Jewels & Jewellery’ and the ‘Grimm Brothers’ fairy-tales, a colourful array of pencils & watercolours, my laptop of course, and a candle or two to get me in the zone.
Make. All the signet rings and pendants are handmade from my jewellery bench at home, forged from the deep and rich recycled 18ct yellow gold.
Enamel. I then send the pieces to my enameller who engraves and hand paints each design in miniature. As every different layer of enamel paint is applied, the piece must be fired in a kiln. This process is repeated until the finished painting comes to life!
Diamonds. I then pass the jewellery on to my wonderful stone setters in Hatton Garden, the diamond district of London, where they star-set teeny tiny glittery diamonds to complete each miniature scene…
Finish. Finally, the pieces are back with me, where I give the overall surface a matte finish. This results in a buttery, frosted surface - bringing out the beautiful deep colours of the enamel paintings.
Describe a perfect day in London.
It would start off with a long Saturday morning sitting in bed with my boyfriend Dan and our sweet little fur baby, Lucky. A tray of croissants, jam, butter and coffee from our local bakery in the middle of it all…
An afternoon spent in Notting Hill visiting my all-time favourite haberdashery called The Cloth Shop, I could spend hours sifting through their various striped French linens, or Indian block print cottons. Always an inspiration.
The evening would be spent with friends in a cosy, fairy-lit pub garden. Somewhere local, sharing bottles of wine until I decide it’s way past my bedtime and jump in an uber home. Ready for a sleepy Sunday!
How did you begin your journey with enamel?
In some ways, my journey has just begun! While researching ancient jewellery in the treasure trove that is the Victoria & Albert Museum archives, I fell in love with an old Victorian wedding band, enamelled with pink flowers all the way around. I decided to begin experimenting with my own designs, and through lots of (expensive!) trial and error, I finally created a collection I am happy with! I can’t wait for the journey to continue…
Can you tell us a bit about the enameller you work with?
My London enameller is wonderful and works effortlessly on each design I send his way! He is a Master Enameller and a member of the Goldsmith Company, Freeman to the City of London – which is a prestigious title that has been given to those with excellent goldsmithing craftsmanship for over 700 years.
Did you face any challenges in getting the collection going? And, have you encountered any obstacles that you have learned from?
Yes!! I came across quite a few hiccups along the way. Enamel is a very particular material to work with. In order to bring out the richness in colour you must choose 18ct gold as your metal (75% pure gold), which you can imagine becomes expensive when you get a design wrong…
The Shark & Anchor (my favourite design) was one of the hardest to create, as it was imperative to get the expression right. One tiny dot for an eye in the wrong place and we have to do it all over again!
Have you been to New York? If so, what do you think of it?
Yes – I LOVE New York. I think I love it so much because it feels very similar to London. (I’m a bit of a home bunny). The energy, the pace of life, the culture, the weather (!!)… I can’t wait for the world to open up again so I can come and visit once more.