Oro de Monte Alban has been manufacturing Mexican and Oaxaca jewelry for more than 40 years, following the traditions and integrity of Mixtec and Zapotec ancestors. They have built an International reputation for their high standards and ethic principles, and now and have eight stores in Oaxaca, Guadalajara, San Miguel and Mexico City.
HEARTMAKER Ileana Rojas is the great granddaughter of the founder of Oro de Monte Alban. She and her brother Jose are earning their weight in gold and silver as they continue the family legacy with their parents, Inez and Alberto Rojas. Their grandmother remains active in the business as well.
This fourth generation beautiful, refined and talented young woman studied design and jewelry making in Florence, and then gemology and the lost wax art in Madrid. While living there, she designed her first collection: “Natura”, covering 300 buttons with fabric and decorating them with silver.
Ileana returned to Oaxaca in 2008, and began collaborating with local artisans to create her second and third signature collections. She translated her love of hearts and animals into hand carved wood and hand painted rings, bracelet and necklaces, embellished with finely crafted gold and silver. Her silver decorated family of turtles, butterflies, fish, dog, iguanas, cats and jacquards are a mix of whimsy, refinement and elegance.
Experimenting with different techniques, she took a design from a typical dress and hand painted it onto a bracelet. In her new and 4th collection, she mixes leather and hand carved woods with her favorite flowers, animals and hearts.
“I want to show the culture of Oaxaca represented in jewelry to the world” .Each piece comes with the meaning and origin of the piece. No two pieces are alike. Each design is unique. My great grandmother started the family business in 1925, when she opened the first jewelry store in Oaxaca. She started with gold filigree when gold was very cheap. All the natives from the mountains came to her house with nuggets of gold to sell. She gave them to craftsmen she knew from three or four families who then turned them into jewelry”.
Jose tells me: “The mission of the family is to preserve the culture and heritage of our ancestors in the form of jewelry. We have been interpreting and reproducing archeological finds from the ruins of Monte de Alban that were discovered in the1940’s, jewelry and artifacts that date back thousands of years.. The originals are in the Oaxaca Anthropology Museum. but my great grandmother was able to get some molds, pictures and craftsmen to replicate them. Nine pieces from the original collection are still being produced and sold in 18K and 14K gold”.
The history of the Oro de Monte Alban legacy is fascinating.
In the beginning, from 1968 to 1980, Ileana’s father Alberto and grandmother traveled around the country peddling jewelry from a briefcase. As Oaxaca became a popular tourist destination, they began to open stores in town. People came to them; they no longer had to travel. Sadly for Oaxaca, times have changed and with the drop in tourism, they once again have to reach out to find other markets. They are doing so by opening stores in other cities and looking to franchise their name.