If $A$ is a C*-algebra and $n$ is a normal element of $A$, then we have: (By Gelfand duality for example.)

$\operatorname{spec}( |N| ) = | \operatorname{spec}(N) | := \left\{ | \lambda | ; \lambda \in \operatorname{spec}(N) \right\}$

where we define: $|n|:=(n^*n)^{1/2}$. My question is, does the converse also hold?

That is if $a\in A$ and for $r>0$:

$\left\{ r e^{it} : t \in [0, 2\pi[ \right\} \cap \operatorname{spec}(a)$ is not empty if and only if $r\in \operatorname{spec}(|a|)$

implies that $a$ is normal. (Possibly some exceptions made for the zero-element) Or bluntly speaking if the mapping $a$ to $a^*a$ does not create any "new" (or removes any "old") elements in the spectrum then $a$ is normal.

For example if $e$ is an idempotent in $A$, then $e$ is a projection if and only if $||e||=1$. Hence if $e$ is a non-projection idempotent we have $\left\{0,1\right\} = \operatorname{spec}(e) \subsetneq \operatorname{spec}(|e|)$, since $||e||>1$ and by the spectral radius $\operatorname{spec}(e^*e)$ contains an element strictly bigger that one.

Clearly if p is a projection, then p=|p|.