From Bullets to Bling: See the Jewelry Made With Illegal Handguns

A social entrepreneur makes it his business to get guns off city streets.

Gun Metal Inlay Cage Cuff, made from recycled gunmetal and stainless steel, by Liberty United. (Photo: Courtesy Liberty United)


Oct 16, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

In Chicago last year there were more than 1,800 shootings and more than 400 gun deaths. And the Cook County Sheriff’s Office collects about 1,500 illegal weapons each year.

Peter Thum, a social entrepreneur and the founder of Ethos Water, a for-profit company that sells bottled water and donates some of the profits to clean-water programs, has a plan for all these firearms—and it doesn’t include hawking them on the black market.

Instead, Thum turns the raw materials into jewelry, marks each piece with a gun’s serial number, and sells them for $35 to $1,400. Through his company Liberty United, Thum donates 25 percent to 30 percent of the profits to anti–gun violence charities (“tens of thousands,” according to Reuters).

Skinny Bullet Cuff (Photo courtesy of Liberty United)

“Chicago is a city that has suffered a lot over the past few years because of gun violence,” Thum told Reuters. “There’s an interesting opportunity to do something here.”

This isn’t Thum’s first go-round at making weapons wearable. In 2009, he founded Fonderie 47, which turns AK-47s taken from African countries into pricey rings and necklaces. These pieces start at around $12,000 and can cost as much as $200,000.

“When I saw kids with guns in Africa, I realized this is a problem people are afraid to even think about, to even do something about,” Thum told The New York Times last year.

Bullet Aeternum Pendant (Photo courtesy of Liberty United)

Fonderie 47 jewelry ranges from delicate pendants to thick, tarnished-looking cuffs and bears little resemblance to its source material.

The guns and bullets used as raw material for Liberty United’s bracelets, charms, rings, and earrings aren’t part of active investigations, Reuters reported. Though the concept may seem a little morbid, the accessories are a reminder of how pervasive gun violence is in the United States.

Each piece “represents a gun that’s no longer on the street killing somebody,” said Liberty United designer Philip Crangi.

The company has also partnered with police departments in Philadelphia; Newburgh, N.Y.; and Syracuse, N.Y. to obtain weapons and ammunition for the jewelry.