New York City. June 12, 2019. When Carrie Hoffman was diagnosed with breast cancer in the winter of 2016, her jewelry design business was (understandably) put on a back burner. Within a year’s time, she went from diagnosis to biopsy to surgery to mastectomy, all with the amazing support of a community of other strong Los Angeles–based females around her.
“There was an intense sisterhood of women who helped me frame the cancer process,” she says of friends acquired from a Facebook-based moms’ group.
After a year and a half of sickness and recovery, Hoffman was ready to return to her jewelry bench, which was a healing experience. And with her cancer process fresh in her mind, she thought about a way to express it in jewelry. She hadn’t seen any breast-motif pieces in the market, so could she create one that was tasteful yet spoke to the challenges of the disease and survivor’s tales? She carved a breast in wax with the intent of placing a gemstone in the center to represent a nipple. Many breast cancer victims lose theirs in the mastectomy process. Hoffman also knew how the colors of women’s nipples varied widely, so in a ballsy moment, she reached out to that local online support group and asked breast cancer survivors to send her snaps of their breasts. The point? To see the range of colors in women’s nipples so she could capture them in jewelry with the appropriate colored stones. Thirty photos arrived in her inbox, and from those were born seven different colors of gemstone nipples including pink sapphire and smoky topaz. Next, she set the gems inverted in 14k gold styles to make the look more subtle. To date, stud earrings and necklaces are available, with 20 percent of wholesale cost benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Fund. Adds Hoffman, “Tatas are a way to support breast cancer research but also keep looks elegant and subtle.”
At a retail show in February in New York City, Hoffman sold two-dozen styles, and at the recent Premier trade-only show in Las Vegas, a retailer ordered 20 pieces plus a custom number. The merchant wanted diamonds to represent a scar motif.
Thaissa Voigt, manager at Wright’s in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and store owner Nancy McFarland were intrigued by the collection but were initially hesitant to buy. Would their shoppers find it offensive? Ultimately, they decided not.
“I think it’s a great idea to celebrate that you are here,” says Voigt. “I like the idea of different nipple colors because we are all so different. Everyone knows someone who had breast cancer and if you’re a survivor, why not celebrate it?”
Tata stud earrings in 14k yellow gold with 0.03 ct. pink sapphires, $423; Carrie Hoffman
Tata stud earrings in 14k yellow gold with 0.03 ct. smoky topaz, $423; Carrie Hoffman
Tata pendant necklace in 14k yellow gold with 0.03 ct. black diamond, $383; Carrie Hoffman
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