Fantasy Jewelry as a Byproduct of Cancer

Fantasy Jewelry as a Byproduct of Cancer

Israeli artist Shirli Matatia created drawings and sculptures all through her young life, but it wasn’t until after high school, when she saw jewelry designer on a career skills questionnaire, that she knew how she wanted to use her talent.


Matatia earned a degree in jewelry design from Shenkar College in Israel, then worked for five years as a goldsmith in a gold and diamonds jewelry factory, learning the practical side of the industry.

Then, in 2008, a lump she discovered at the base of her neck turned out to be cancer.

During chemotherapy, losing her hair provided her with the motivation to try something new. Since she didn’t like wearing a wig or a hat, she toyed with the idea of taking attention away from her head by making herself a cool piece of jewelry. She created a silver leaf and berry cartilage earring.

Leaves and berries
(Honestly, it’s so cute, I’m considering getting my cartilage pierced.)

Though her treatment was successful, the realization that she could die any day burdened her heart.

She decided to quit her day job and open her own company designing, manufacturing, and selling her own line of jewelry.


Manufacturing isn’t exactly the correct term. Each item is hand-crafted.

“I usually begin with a sketch to get the general idea down,” says Matatia, “and then I start to think about the technical aspects of how I will produce it. Next, I hand-make a prototype of the design in wax or sheet metal, and from there, a rubber mold is made for casting the designs in gold or silver. That part of the process takes two to three weeks, depending on the materials; it definitely requires patience. When I have the cast pieces back, I do my soldering and finish the jewel. The best part of my job is seeing the finished design for the first time — when I finally see it in real metal and it comes to life.”

Because the pieces are made by hand, if a client would like something customized, say, out of gold instead of silver, or with a different stone in it, Matatia can usually make it to the customer’s specifications.

Matatia sells her creations in her two Etsy shops.

Here are some of her selections from Shirli Classic Jewelry (you can click on the smaller images to view an enlargement):

And the styles shown below are from her Fantasy line:

Many of the pieces are inspired by Celtic designs.

WowThis is my favorite (it’s the piece I saw while surfing Etsy that made me want to find out about the artist), but I don’t think I can wear it. My ears stick out too far. Plus, I’m an old lady–it might look weird on me.

Which one is your favorite? Share in the comments below.


About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

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