Campbell + Charlotte Fine Jewelry Designer Jenny McHugh And Her Kaleidoscopic Jewels

Alive with universally engaging motifs, kaleidoscopic colors and artisanal excellence, Campbell + Charlotte’s 14-karat gold fine gemstone jewelry also embodies the positive energies of Jenny McHugh, the brand’s founder/designer. “My intention is to make bold jewels that empower the wearer and make others take notice. Campbell + Charlotte,” she continues, “creates serious jewels for those who don’t take themselves too seriously.” Toward that end, she explains, “I want my designs to make the wearer happy and put a smile on their face every time they put them on.” For McHugh, an inspired use of color embodies more than material and visual power. It can also act as an emotionally uplifting lever for the wearer, and the world. “Careful use of color is an amazing way to elevate a design and inject it with happiness and surprise,” she asserts.

With a painterly approach and a sculptor’s spatial awareness and sense of proportion, McHugh continually updates the four collections that sparkle and shine in the Campbell + Charlotte jewelry universe. Evolve, Juju, Charm, Crew and Found can all be customized in 14-karat yellow, white or rose gold. (These can also be set with one’s preferred gemstones.) McHugh founded the brand three years ago, after the birth of her daughter, Campbell. “Each of my collections has a personality of sorts,” she explains. “I think about how customers may want to layer pieces from the different collections based on what they may feel or want to express.” With Campbell + Charlotte jewels, she adds, “You can almost build your armor for the day based on what kind of personality you want to channel.”    

While McHugh describes her initial collection Found, as “Dramatic, bold & vibrant,” she rates the Juju Collection as, “Happy, magical and sparkly.” The Evolve range is “Strong, modern and boss,” while the Crew collection’s classic designs feature subtle details. For example, the two concentric rows of gemstones within the Knife Edge stacking ring are separated by a protruding circle of gold that imbues the ring with some edgy, sculptural polish. “I consider each design from every possible perspective,” McHugh says. “I want my pieces to delight with unexpected details.” On the underside of Campbell + Charlotte’s Juju charms, for example, the golden design mirrors that of the gemstone design on its front. According to McHugh, “The pieces in the Juju Collection are inspired by childhood doodles. The designs are elevated with diamonds and gemstones into something we want to wear every day. The shapes are inspired by symbols that we enjoyed drawing and wearing when we were kids,” McHugh notes.  While rainbows, stars and hearts abound, these look sleek and stylish rather than sentimental. “Conceptually, this collection is really just about making people happy,” McHugh says. “Even though most of us stop doodling rainbows and stars as we get older, these shapes evoke positive feelings and nostalgia in many of us.”

When asked to name the designs in her collection she wear the most, McHugh readily reels off a dynamic list, beginning with the Found Emerald Cut Pendant Necklace. Given the Found collection was her first, all of the pieces in it possess special meaning. “But this necklace is one of my favorite as I love how it combines a super organic and magical green hardstone, malachite, with the sparkle of diamonds,” she says. “I also like jewelry with some heft and this is a solid statement necklace.”

Next in line is The Found Cigar Band Ring. “This ring is centered with a smooth cabochon stone,” McHugh says. “It is a statement given how substantial it is, yet it’s casual enough to wear every day, and you can dress it up for a night out.” Inspired by the rainbows McHugh painted as a child, the Juju Charm Necklace is another favorite. “These are meant to be worn layered over one another, so I often wear a few. The Rainbow Juju Charm necklace is, by far, my favorite because it embodies what the Juju collection is all about:  Happy, Magical and Sparkly.”

Set with 0.16 tcw of diamonds, the smooth and sleekly detailed 14-karat gold The Crew Bangle Bracelet is the kind of piece that all jewelry collectors should have, McHugh suggests. Measuring 48mm by 58mm, it’s the kind of bracelet that works for every day and pairs well with other types of jewelry. “This is a versatile investment piece that will be worn for years to come,” she notes. McHugh also highly rates the matching Crew Stacking Rings. “I love stacking rings and I love a hefty stacking band,” she enthuses. “These rings are available singly, or as a set of four, and are bold enough to compete with any cocktail ring.” 

Although McHugh founded Campbell + Charlotte after a career in corporate brand management, her success as a jewelry design entrepreneur was prefigured by her jewelry-loving childhood. “As a little girl, I made beaded jewelry and wore tons of bracelets, necklaces and rings,” she recalls. “I refused to remove my jewelry before bedtime and every night, I put up a fight and drove my parents crazy.” After graduating with a business degree at the University of Richmond, McHugh worked in the corporate world. Intending to pursue a career in consumer packaging goods brand management, she then enrolled in an MBA program.

In 2010, while still in business school, McHugh started a jewelry brand called Button Box Design that she worked on during nights and weekends. “The name was inspired by my grandmother, who was a very talented seamstress,” she says. “After she passed, my sister and I used her button box as an inspiration for our craft projects.” Button Box jewels were made by hand with various types of gemstone beads, wrapped gold-filled wire, and different knotting techniques. “Although this was not a fine jewelry brand,” McHugh explains, “I did have a website and a number of retail partners. For ten years, I ran it like a real business, only on a small scale, and it taught me a lot that serves me well at Campbell + Charlotte.”  

After McHugh received her MBA degree, “I worked for General Mills for a few years and received an amazing education there in business fundamentals, consumer behavior and marketing,” she recollects. “In my last position there, I was an associate brand manager.” McHugh then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she worked for Chiquita, the banana company. Other jobs in general management, partner management, digital marketing and digital product management followed.Once McHugh decided she was going to leave corporate life and pursue her jewelry dream, “I gave myself permission to settle into defining what that meant.” As Fate would have it, “The Found Collection exploded out of my brain onto paper as if it had been trapped inside me for years,” she relates. “I named it Found because through designing each piece, I found myself and settled into my creative identity.” Having always loved the organic look and saturated colors of hard stones like malachite and turquoise, McHugh combined hardstones with diamonds and colored gemstones for this realm of designs. “I like the juxtaposition of something that’s unmistakably organic with the perfection and faceted beauty of a gemstone,” she says.

Intriguingly, McHugh cites her toddler daughter Campbell as her main muse. “My daughter turned three in April of this year and I love watching her creativity evolve as she grows. One of the qualities I love about her, which I imagine I may have had when I was her age,” she ventures, “is that she is completely uninhibited. She draws completely in the moment, choosing whatever color speaks to her next. This results in the most interesting color combinations. I actually have a board in my office that’s filled with Campbell’s explosions of color that I use for design inspiration.”

The open-mindedness and chromatic exuberance that McHugh shares with her daughter is one of the Campbell + Charlotte brand’s dynamic strong points. “I don’t think there should be any rules around what jewelry you wear together,” McHugh states. “You should wear what makes you happy even if you are mixing metals or combining a solid gold bangle with a nylon bracelet your child made for you. Jewelry is so personal, it should reflect your uniqueness.” Toward that end, Campbell + Charlotte offers a special design service, C + C Custom, that is devoted to providing the best experience for McHugh’s bespoke clients. “As a designer, I am playing a tiny role in creating a jewel that will become a part of their life story,” she reflects. “I am lucky enough to work with clients on bespoke jewelry for their engagements, weddings, births, anniversaries, health-related celebrations and many more. I want the jewelry I create to mark milestone events to be as personal and special as possible.”  


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