Guns, Brass, and Steel: Jewels for Peace

A few months ago, at Baselworld, I met Peter Thum, a social entrepreneur best known for founding Ethos Water, the bottled water brand acquired by Starbucks in 2005, sales of which have brought safe, clean drinking water to more than half a million people around the world.

Thum was in Basel to meet with watch industry insiders to promote his current venture, Fonderie 47, a New York City-based company that uses mangled steel from assault rifles seized in African war zones to create high-end jewels and rarefied objects. I’d spoken to Thum on the phone in 2012 when I was reporting a story about the jewelry collection created for Fonderie 47 by James de Givenchy, the visionary New York City-based designer behind the Taffin label, and our Basel meeting was both a follow-up to that conversation and a face-to-face introduction.

During our meeting, Thum showed me a beautiful, expensive timepiece that represented Fonderie 47’s latest effort. Named the Inversion Principle, the $350,000 tourbillon had been designed by Adrian Glessing and produced by David Candaux in a limited edition of 20 pieces. According to the company’s unique business model, the sale of each watch pays for the destruction of 1,000 assault rifles in Africa.

I admired both the watch’s execution and the ideals upon which it was created. My only quibble was that, given how pricey it is, so few people would be able to enjoy it.

Thum, it would seem, had similar concerns, because his latest venture addresses the accessibility issue square on. In late June, he announced the debut of Liberty United, a jewelry brand that incorporates recycled guns and bullets in collections created by leading designers. Twenty-five percent of profits from each sale go to groups that are working to reduce gun violence in America. The company’s first designer collaboration is with Giles & Brother, the brand from brother-and-sister team Philip and Courtney Crangi, who make the pieces in New York and Rhode Island (thus the brand’s tagline: “Remade in the U.S.A.”). The retail pricing ranges from $85 for a ring made from brass and a bullet casing to $690 for a silver and gunmetal bracelet.

I was so taken with the company’s mission that I purchased a $95 Skinny Spike bracelet from the Liberty United website and have been wearing it on my right wrist ever since it arrived in the mail last week. The bracelet, which features the serial number of one of the guns used in its manufacture, is part of the Railroad Spikes collection, designed by Giles & Brother to honor America’s pioneering spirit.

My Skinny Spike bracelet from Liberty United came with cool packaging.

“I think we’re all really lucky to be born Americans…and we’re all in this together,” Philip Crangi says on a short video on the Liberty United site. “The railroad spike is a really important symbol of that unity.”

In addition to the Skinny Spike bracelet, the collection consists of a thicker bracelet, a necklace, and a ring. The styles are available in brass, steel, stainless steel, and sterling silver, and can be customized with engravings during the order process.

“I feel really proud to make pieces that in any way impact someone’s life,” Crangi says.

And I feel proud to wear them!