Right around Valentine’s Day, designer Cece Fein Hughes, of the British jewelry brand known simply as Cece, added a heart motif to her range of 18k gold and enamel signet rings and pendants. The design, which allows for a custom engraving in the banner underneath, is a perfect gift for sweethearts to exchange. And in the intervening weeks, it’s fair to say that my affection for this little beauty—and Hughes’ entire enamel collection—has deepened considerably.
As it happens, I have also been thinking a lot of about signet rings in general and how a traditional class ring seems like a forgotten category that needs to be resurrected anew. Wouldn’t Hughes’ approach to the archetypal silhouette be a uniquely enchanting option for those graduating this spring?
Hughes first launched her brand in 2020 with just a small group of minimalist 9k gold and diamond rings and hoops. As an art historian who studied at Exeter University, and worked at Christie’s and Sotheby’s before finally turning her attention to the trade of goldsmithing in 2018, she seems to have found the fullest expression of her voice with the enamel series.
“I really enjoyed making my first collection, and I still wear most of it on a day-to-day basis, however, I very quickly craved storytelling, which is why I gravitated toward enamel,” says the designer, who is currently sold at Liberty London and Catbird.
It was during her continued education at the British Academy of Jewellery that she fell in love with the ancient art of enameling.
“It’s a medium which can be painted onto a surface of gold in any way you want…the opportunities are endless,” she says.
All the enamelwork is done by a master specialist in London, while Hughes stays focused on her design and craft at the bench.
Inspiration for the signet ring artwork is rooted in fairy tale illustration and traditional tattoo art. The designer attributes part of the imagery to her memories of making “miniature fairy worlds” at her grandmother’s house in a “witchy” area of the U.K. known as Dartmoor, a moorland in the county of Devon strewn with craggy cliffs, Stone Age tombs, and abandoned medieval dwellings.
“I also spent my childhood listening to the stories my deep-sea diver father would tell of his adventures beneath the waves,” she adds. “Marrying the enchanted creatures depicted in fables with the playfulness of old-school tattoos was just so fun! And then the combination of throwing in a few star-set diamonds onto gold magically spun together this element of luxury, meaning you can carry around a miniature treasure chest of stories in ring form.”
And this idea of jewelry being a miniature treasure chest of stories is one that resonates with her fans and collectors. “I believe the world has shifted from fast instant fashion to valuing something a little more timeless, relishing in the making process and investing in jewelry that has more meaning and can last generations,” she says.
She’s right that the world is shifting. And bombarding us with devastating news and images of late. I wonder if Hughes is aware that her signet rings by definition offer a form of escape. This may be why, starting Friday through March 12, she will join others in the jewelry community in supporting Ukraine by donating 30% of all sales of her enamel signet rings and pendants to the British Red Cross DEC Ukraine Appeal as they endeavor to support families affected by the crisis.
And with that said, may I suggest the dove ring pictured up top? I cannot imagine a more fitting talisman for activating peace on earth.
Top: Dove signet ring in 18k gold and enamel with diamond, $3,811.60
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