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Ileana Maria Rojas-Bennett was born in Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose. She is a descendant of the Maleku Indian Tribe. Maleku Jewelry’s tagline is “Jewelry Inspired by the Colors of the Rain Forest”.
“I was fortunate enough to grow up in the home of an outstanding artist. In fact my most basic childhood memory is one of my mother’s portraits and sculptures. After completing a master’s degree in education I moved to the United States and decided to pursue my passion for art. Beginning with stained glass, I created many eye-catching pieces before I learned to fuse glass, making dichroic glass pendants, rings and earring sets. I quickly realized the colors that were being created in my kilns were reminiscent of the vast kaleidoscope of colors I knew as a little girl in my native country. With this inspiration it was then that I decided to exclusively create jewelry with fashion, glamour, and the modern woman in mind and Maleku Jewelry Designs was born.
I now work with sterling and fine silver, 14, 22, and 24 K gold and semi precious stones such as blue Persian turquoise, black onyx, smoky quartz, jasper, astrophyllite, eudialyte and labradorite among others. As a descendant of the Maleku Indian Tribe, I pledge a percentage of Maleku Jewelry’s annual profits to help this dwindling indigenous people group. In 2011, this meant providing a well to bring fresh water to one of the villages. My future plans are to build a school. I also particularly use freshwater pearls, corals, abalone, mother-of-pearl and others beauty from the depths of the sea. My beads are seed beads, handmade glass beads, and other trade beads that are beauties from the generations of many cultures. And don’t forget the world-famous Swarovski crystals from the Czech Republic which make every piece a treasure.”
Rojas-Bennett’s work is frequently featured on the runways of Miami, New York and London and was recognized by the fashion industry when she became the first accessory designer in 24 years (past years winners were dress designers), as well as the first of Costa Rican descent, to win the prestigious “Beyond the Runway Award” for upcoming fashion designers in 2010. Maleku Jewelry has been featured in numerous magazine, newspaper and internet articles and has been worn by several celebrities.