From Guns to JewelryPeter Thum
(The New York Times) – One cold evening this winter, on the fifth floor of an unremarkable building on West 46th Street, Louis Onty, owner of City Casting, was pouring molten metal into the wax molds his company had created for the jewelry line Liberty United.
The metal hadn’t come from a typical commercial supplier. It was the melted down remains of guns and bullets seized by police departments across the United States, now being used to create jewelry with a message.
Liberty United is one of several humanitarian efforts by Peter Thum, the entrepreneur who in 2005 sold Ethos Water to Starbucks for $7.7 million.
In 2011, concerned about the number of AK47 assault rifles he had seen in children’s hands during a trip to Africa, he launched Fonderie 47. It turns weapons into luxury watches and jewelry by designers such as David Candaux, a fourth-generation Swiss watchmaker, and James de Givenchy, who designs the Taffin line in New York. The program says it has destroyed 40,000 weapons since its founding.
Liberty United, begun in 2013, is an American version with that same anti-gun focus but its jewelry is less expensive. “The price is reflective of the vast number of guns in use in the United States, a number that is rising and a part of everyone’s consciousness,” Mr. Thum said, “so the price point is equally accessible.” It ranges from $35 for an octagonal brass charm to $1,545 for a silver and gunmetal talon-shaped cuff.
Each piece, whether designed by Philip Crangi, Pamela Love or Liberty United’s inhouse team, is stamped with the serial number of a gun that has been eliminated.
Mr. Thum estimates that, so far, he has transformed more than 1,000 guns and so many bullets “I couldn’t possibly count them all.”
Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County, Ill., which has given weapons to Liberty United after they were no longer needed for prosecution, said, “With this partnership, we’re taking guns that would otherwise be incinerated — with no benefit to anyone — and turning them into something beautiful, while benefiting a local organization working on the front lines to support these vulnerable children.”
The jewelry is sold online, with 20 percent to 25 percent of the profits given to programs in the customer’s choice of four locations: Cook County; Philadelphia; and Syracuse or Newburgh, N.Y.
“Some customers are attracted by the fashion, and others by the mission,” Mr. Thum said. The jewelry “gives people a vehicle to take a stand on gun violence that is personal and visible.”