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Love your necklace! Does it come in enkephalin?

April 11, 2008 | 11:29 am

A quick glimpse of Raven Hanna's jewelry elicits an immediate double take. Is that? ... Noooo ... Yeah, it is! It's a molecule!

Serotonin necklaceHanna designs necklaces, earrings and bracelets that are models of molecules, done in sterling silver and 14-karat gold. Among her creations are a serotonin necklace, dopamine earrings, and a neurotransmitter charm bracelet with six different such molecules that can be clipped on or off, depending on one's mood (Feeling focused and driven? Wear norepinephrine which, according to Wikipedia, is a stress hormone that underlies the fight-or-flight response.). Prices range from about $40 to $170 and the items are sold through her Etsy shop and her website, where she also offers molecule-decorated clothing and gift items.

The 35-year-old Hanna is an example of perfect right brain/left brain balance, since she has a PhD from Yale in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and designs jewelry. In fact, the jewelry business that she started in 2005, called Made With Molecules, is how she's making her living these days.

The San Francisco resident's designs are shiny little ambassadors to the world of science, a world that can be freakishly intimidating to some, she says. "So many times people have been intrigued by the shape of the jewelry and asked about it. 'Serotonin? I've heard of it, what does it do again?' " And so the dialogue starts (Serotonin plays a major role in mood regulation and is a key component in treating depression). Hanna doesn't sound in the least like a science geek--talking with her is like chatting with a girlfriend. She's fun and smart and laughs a lot, but doesn't throw in big, scientific words like "dihydroxyphenylalanine" just to crush your spirit.

Dopamine necklace Hanna says she's always been in touch with her artistic side, but started making jewelry in 2004 after a breakup. "I was learning about neurotransmitters, and I wanted to know, why do I feel as bad as I do?" She saw a serotonin molecule and thought, "Wow, that would make a really pretty necklace." After trolling Google for one to no avail, she decided to make one herself. The "you should really sell those" comments came next, and the rest is molecular history.

Hanna says she doesn't plan on making jewelry for a living forever (not that there's anything wrong with that). "I'm interested in experimenting with approaches to science education," she says. "I feel like that's one of the reasons why people kind of have a negative attitude toward science, because they're afraid they won't understand it."

Fostering a love of science, one piece of jewelry at a time. Got to admire that.

-Jeannine Stein

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