Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Sterling Silver Pod Pearl Earrings
If you are a daring sort and like the ferocious beauty of volcanic activity, then Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano National Park is for you. 

With an ever present stream of glowing lava, the Arenal Volcano has become a tourist attraction where park rangers take visitors through safe, lava-free trails.  Costa Rica is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Ileana Rojas-Bennett.

A descendant of the artistically gifted yet dwindling Maleku tribe, Rojas-Bennett’s gorgeous, spirited gemstone and crystal jewelry is highly informed by the vibrant environment of her childhood and the eclectic artistry of the Maleku people.

“My mother was an outstanding artist.  I grew up in a home surrounded by my mother’s sculptures and portraits. I majored in Education but when I moved to the United States I decided to pursue my passion for art,” she recalls.

The winner of the 2010 New York Fashion Week Beyond the Runway Award, Rojas-Bennett initially dabbled in stained glass and dichroic art glass creating a colorful array of jewelry pieces.  The beautiful fused colors of working with glass evoked sentimental memories for the designer taking her back to her childhood in Costa Rica.

“During the time I created art glass and all these magnificent colors were in my kilns I thought of the colors I knew as a little girl in my native country. 
Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet
with Green Turquoise
This source of inspiration is what motivated me to exclusively create jewelry with fashion, glamour and the modern woman in mind.  In 2003, Maleku Jewelry Designs was born.”

Her wonderful handmade jewelry designs are characterized by not only lushly colored, chunky gemstone necklaces and gemstone bracelets but also variegated seed beads, trade beads, glass beads and Swarovski Crystals. The assortment of beaded bracelets and gemstone rings are at once bold and somewhat tribal yet chic and modern.

Her sterling silver cuff bracelets and gemstone rings feature checkerboard faceted gemstones like amethyst or smoky quartz in one instance while uncut, crystallized gemstones such as ruby quartz are offset by granulation accents in another.  Her designs strike a balance between statement making and every day.

“I work with everything from fine and sterling silver to 14-, 22- and 24-karat gold to gemstones like black onyx, Persian turquoise, abalone, and mother-of-pearl.  This makes every piece a treasure,” she says.
Multi-Strand Bead Necklace

“As a descendant of the few remaining Maleku artists, it is an honor for me to bestow part of the proceeds of sales to my beloved Maleku villages.  Supporting these artists in their ongoing quest to create art is crucial.”
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