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UCA Rochester student shines at international jewellery fair

One of our jewellery graduates has received an award at an international jewellery professional fair in Portugal for her creative designs, which are centred around the self, identity and Portuguese imagery.

Maria Leao Torres, who studied BA (Hons) Contemporary Jewellery at our Rochester campus, received the Best Innovation, Techniques and Materials award at the Portojoia International Jewellery Fair, an annual event that brings together industry professionals and showcases the latest trends and designs in the sector.

Maria said: “It’s really important for me to win this prize in Portugal. It was my first jewellery exhibition since returning from the UK with my brand LEAO Contemporary Jewellery®. Having such a positive response at the beginning of my career is amazing and makes me believe that I’m on the right track. It really gives me confidence to keep working.”

As well as showcasing precious metals and stones, fashion jewellery, watches and antiques, Portojoia also hosts debates on some of the most prominent issues in the sector. 

Maria, whose award coincides with the recent release of her latest collection, VIANA, adds: “My latest collection continues the celebration and tribute to Portuguese women and traditional crafts, especially from the North of Portugal. As with my previous work, the new pieces also have complex and different forms, and are bulky and visually strong. With VIANA, I'm using different materials to vitreous enamel and copper. I wanted to perfect my skills with silver and gold, and my aim was also to explore colour and light through gemstones, including the positive and negative spaces created by the pieces when they are worn.

“Every time I design, I am looking for innovative and unique solutions. I think that I achieve this because one of the focus points of my practice is to subvert and reinvent traditional techniques and processes - I don't like to follow "ready-made recipes”. I think my designs push the design boundaries because I accept that mistakes are impermanent. I can't make new designs without painting, deconstructing traditional imagery, experimenting with the materials and creating 3D models first! I love playing and I love failing - normally the best outcomes for final designs come from the process of testing and the errors that are associated with it!”

To find out more about Maria’s jewellery, visit

Maria Leao Torres BA (Hons) Contemporary Jewellery