Pahoa digs series: Channel your inner scientist with molecule jewelry

Jewelry inspired by nature is not hard to come by. Flower and seashell rings, dolphin necklaces, and bird-in-flight earrings are common, but what about the composition of everything in nature?

The serotonin necklace proves to be Hanna's bestselling item. Photo Credit: Raven Hanna

Raven Hanna creates jewelry centered around exactly that: a jewelry line devoted entirely to molecules, called MadeWithMolecules.

Hanna is a self-proclaimed “scientist-turned-artist.” While many artists struggle to find their niche, the idea for molecule-focused jewelry came to Hanna while reading a book about neurotransmitters.

A picture in the book depicted the serotonin molecule. It stood out to Hanna as beautiful – both in an aesthetic and symbolic sense – and she wanted a necklace to highlight that molecule.

“We all could use a little bit more of just like, ‘I’m OK, I’m satisfied, I’m happy, everything is good,’ which is what serotonin brings,” said Hanna.

Hanna scoured the Internet in search of a serotonin-molecule necklace, but to no avail.

Having kept a sketch book for years, she decided to take it upon herself to create the serotonin-shaped necklace, which is now her best-selling jewelry piece.

She acquired her undergraduate education from the University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate education from Yale University, postdoctoral education from UC Berkeley, and another year of postdoctoral studies classes back at UCSC.

Hanna discovered during her postdoctoral studies that she was unhappy doing laboratory work. On a trip to Hawai‘i after her three-year post-doc, she looked out into the Kaua‘i ocean and thought, “Wait. I don’t want to be a scientist, I want to communicate science.”While she originally aspired to become a scientist, she loved the idea of being a science communicator more.

“[The experience on Kaua‘i] really changed the course of my professional life,” said Hanna.

The sterling silver caffeine necklace can be purchased for $90. Photo credit: Raven Hanna

Little did she know the serotonin necklace she created would unlock the opportunity to communicate science in a creative way.

Friends urged Hanna to sell her jewelry.

She first took the idea of opening a jewelry business seriously when a high school girl approached Hanna about the necklace in a Gap store.

“It suddenly occurred to me, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m giving someone a science lesson in a Gap store in a mall. This is science communication!’ It sort of struck me that this thing that I had made was [the] science communication that I was looking for, because I was looking for creative ways to communicate science,” said Hanna.

Hanna was making a living off of the MadeWithMolecules jewelry line in San Francisco when she came to a sudden realization.

“I can live anywhere with a post office and Internet connection. … And that got me thinking, where would I want to be?”

Hanna finally moved to the quiet town of Pāhoa on the Big Island last October in search of a place that enabled her to live off the grid, closer to the land and a more “green” lifestyle.

“I’ve made some crucial decisions while I was in the islands that have kind of changed my life, so I’ve always felt a connection [to Hawai‘i] that way.”

She still is involved with science writing, freelancing for Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

But, less than two years after founding the company in 2005, Hanna committed herself to working full-time onMadeWithMolecules.

“I am spending more than full-time hours doing it!” Hanna said laughingly.

Hanna takes custom jewelry orders as well. What’s the most unusual request she’s had? A chemist on the team of Viagra inventors ordered sildenafil citrate, the drug sold as Viagra.

Other molecules available for purchase are dopamine, caffeine, theobromine (chocolate), resveratrol (red wine) and estrogen, among many others.

Endorphins, the molecule that causes a natural high in humans, inspires this beautiful choker. Photo Credit: Raven Hanna

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3 Comments to “Pahoa digs series: Channel your inner scientist with molecule jewelry”

  1. So proud to have Raven as a part of the Hilo etsy team: Team Hilo Etsy! Check out our facebook page when you get a chance! Awesome artists from the East side of the Big Island!

    Great article, thanks so much!


  2. Wonderful article! I personally know Raven and she is the real deal! Super smart, talented, creative, nice, and beautiful! When you purchase one of her creations, you not only get a awesome piece of jewelry, but you support a Big Island artist that you can feel really good about supporting!

    • Yes, she has an amazing knack for jewelry making and her jewelry is very high-quality. I’m sure many other’s envy her scientific knowledge too (myself included)! 😉
      Without a doubt she is a very talented individual in this Big Island community!

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