On the history of Made With Molecules and the rise of the copycats
Way back in 2003, when I first searched for molecule jewelry online, nothing came up. I was looking for a serotonin necklace to wear as a symbol of happiness and satiety. Not finding one to buy, I decided I would find a local jeweler to teach me to make one for myself. Had I found such a necklace, I would have bought it, and Made With Molecules very likely would not exist.
At the time, I was a postdoc at UC Berkeley working on bacterial ribosomes, and I was intrigued by neurotransmitters' effects on our moods and feelings. By the time I started the science communication program at UCSC in fall of 2004, I was wearing a serotonin necklace I had made. By the summer of 2005, I opened madewithmolecules.com, offering a serotonin necklace, a neurotransmitter charm bracelet, and neurotransmitter earrings. Thanks to a Chemical & Engineering News article that featured my work, MWM was my full-time gig by 2007. In May 2007, I opened my "molecularmuse" shop on Etsy.com.
After I started MWM, I noticed a few others offering molecule jewelry. Their interpretations of the theme was so different than mine that it was clear they had come up with the idea independently, adding their own artistic touches. Our jewelry would never be mistaken for each other's. In creating my style of molecular jewelry, I made a number of stylistic and aesthetic choices that reflect my personal vision. And so did they with their work.
The response to my jewelry amazed me. 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. I am so humbled and grateful to have received so much feedback from people describing how important their MWM piece is to them or their family member or their friend. MWM has gathered a tribe of amazingly smart, interesting, wonderful people. Partially because of the attachment people have to their jewelry and partially because of my idealistic views on being socially and environmentally responsible, I made the decision to not have my jewelry mass produced. I love that my hands are on each and every piece.
Recently, I have noticed even more people offering molecule jewelry. A new twist is that many of these can be mistaken for my work. Usually this jewelry is not handmade and/or is made from cheaper materials, but the aesthetics are strikingly similar to my style. Because of these similarities, when so many differences are possible, I can't help but assume that they saw my jewelry and thought to themselves, "Hmmm, what a good idea -- I bet I can make it cheaper." In other words, they copied.
I honestly don't understand this. We can all imagine wonderful things that don't yet exist in the world - why not make some of those? Why make my stuff, but lower quality? I find this behavior at least immoral, if not illegal (and not a little lazy). It is saddening to me that these cheap copies may unravel something that I have poured so much of my heart and mind into.
I have written this open letter because I've received queries from people confused about the relationship between MWM and the cheaper jewelry others are offering. I am sticking to my commitment to create and offer original, well-designed, and well-made items. I still love the work - and I especially love coming up with new creations that don't yet exist!
To all my dear friends and deeply appreciated fans, I shout out a big THANK YOU! I am profoundly grateful for all the support and stories I have received over the years -- and continue to receive daily.
Wishing you much happiness,
Raven Hanna, PhD
Made With Molecules
molecularmuse on Etsy