Firearm fashion: Company takes aim at gun violence by recycling guns and bullets into jewels
(New York Daily News) – They turn bang-bang into bling-bling.
Liberty United, a company that transforms guns and ammunition seized by police into wearable art, is taking on firearms one gun and bullet at a time.
The company was co-founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Peter Thum and his wife, “Mad Men” actress Cara Buono. The idea: creating jewelry from weapons that will never fire again. Each piece is printed with the serial number of the firearm from which it was cast.
It’s like an upscale, gun-control version of the Livestrong bracelet. The smelted remains of Winchester rifles and Smith and Wessons, formerly used in crimes, find new life as rings, bracelets, earrings, cufflinks and necklaces. Products range from $35 for a brass bullet shell charm to $3,895 for a necklace comprised of gun steel plated in rhodium, rose gold, hematite or 14K, and set with pearls and sapphires.
“I’m wearing my @LibertyUTD spike necklace that’s made from a gun,” tweeted actor Alan Cumming in 2013. “Proceeds help end gun violence.”
Wearing a piece of Liberty United bling puts you in the company of celebrities like Cumming, Paul Rudd, Cara Delevingne and Sarah Silverman. But the company also delivers real-world results for residents of bullet-ridden communities where the guns were confiscated.
At checkout, customers can choose to direct their donations to one or all of four partner communities: Newburgh or Syracuse, N.Y., Philadelphia, Pa., and Cook County, Illinois.
About a quarter of the proceeds from jewelry sales are donated to after-school programs and recreation centers. The money helps provide safe havens to learn and play for about 2,000 children and young adults in at-risk communities.
“These kids are really hopeful and excited about life,” Thum said. “But when we talk about gun violence, they can all name someone who was killed.”
In 2015, Newburgh had the highest violent crime rate of any city in New York state. Philadelphia has suffered nearly 20,000 gun-related crimes since 2014.
Lieutenant Thomas Mcartney, the commanding officer of the evidence unit for the Philadelphia Police Department, estimates the police destroy between five and 12,000 weapons a year. Liberty United offers police a way to create value from weapons disposal.
“You’re taking a destructive item that has been used in a crime or incident and turning it into something not only beautiful but purposeful,” said Julie Wertheimer, chief of staff for criminal justice in Philadelphia’s Managing Director’s Office.
Liberty United recently expanded its program to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, which patrols the gun-plagued streets of South Side Chicago.
“In Englewood, the school is locked and has armed guards all day,” Thum said. He added that the funded programs provide students “extended hours of safety when they might otherwise be headed home without supervision.”
Thum sold Ethos Water, a socially conscious bottled water company, to Starbucks in 2005 for $8 million. His interest in fighting gun violence arose from subsequent trips to war-torn regions of Southern and Central Africa. Thum created Fonderie 47, a jewelry and watch boutique that works with designers James de Givency, Philip Crangi, Adrian Glessing and David Candaux to create luxury pieces from reclaimed uzis and AK47s.
Since that company’s launch in 2011, it has helped destroy some 50,000 guns collected through buy-back programs.
With his latest initiative, Thum said he wants to encourage Americans to speak against gun violence. “I would suggest they take action in whatever form they can,” he said.