Meet Dr. Raven Hanna… she has a PhD in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale. Back in 2003, when she was a postdoc at UC Berkeley, the self-described “science nerd girl” wanted a serotonin molecule necklace. She couldn’t find one anywhere, so she had a local jeweler teach her how to make it herself. It was a life-changing moment, and the scientist turned artist has been making super cool, molecule-inspired jewelry ever since.
Through her postdoc work on bacterial ribosomes, Raven became intrigued by the effects of neurotransmitters on our moods and feelings, which is why she went looking for a serotonin molecule necklace to rock at the lab. “I wanted to wear it as a symbol of happiness and satiety,” she explains on her site.
Had Raven found what she was looking for she says, “I would have bought it,” and the innovative jewelry brand she eventually launched would have probably never come to be.
Her Made With Molecules site went live in the summer of 2005 with just three pieces: Raven’s original serotonin necklace (lead image above), a neurotransmitter charm bracelet, and neurotransmitter earrings. The immediate and overwhelmingly positive response to her jewelry amazed Raven.
“I guess I had thought I was an unusual kind of science nerd girl who would want to wear a pretty, silver molecule. I was to discover that so many other people — like me — find symbolic meaning in science at the molecular level.”
Following a 2007 Chemical & Engineering News article that featured her work, Raven made the decision to turn Made With Molecules into her full-time gig, officially trading her microscope and lab coat for a jeweler’s loupe and soldering iron.
Every piece of sterling silver jewelry in Raven’s Made With Molecules collection features a design based on the molecular shape of neurotransmitters she finds interesting, such as serotonin, which interacts with receptors in the brain to induce feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and relaxation; or anandamide, which is released in times of stress and can make you feel downright blissful; or melatonin, which is famous for its role in sleep. She also works with molecules that can be applied to daily life like caffeine, which needs no explanation, and capsaicin, the active – hot! hot! hot! – component of chili peppers that makes our faces flush, our eyes water, and our skin sweat.
Included with each “handmade in the USA” piece is an informational card describing the science that inspired it.
Raven is committed to respecting the Earth through her business and practices “Earth-friendly and people-friendly policies,” which include using recycled materials and local sources. What’s more, she donates a percentage of her proceeds to environmental and science education non-profit organizations.
Adding to her collection of geek chic goodies, Raven just opened a shop on Society6, where she sells her fun molecule designs on pillows, tote bags, tech accessories, leggings, and more. She also has her screen-print molecular designs available on tees and various accessories.
Sadly, Raven’s unique designs have been copied by a number of people in the last few years. But just know that she’s the OG of the molecule-inspired jewelry world, and everything else is just a cheap knock-off of this scientist’s genius.