For 15 years, Manos Phoundoulakis has represented and sold
the jewelry lines of others like Kubik and Alishan, but recently he’s
taken on a new client: himself.
Phoundoulakis, who has worked in nearly every facet of the
jewelry business, including wholesale, retail, distribution, marketing, and
manufacturing, has unveiled his first line, dubbed Hot Caliber, where fired or
flattened bullets are the central design element in every piece. Each bullet
used for casting is discarded, ensuring that the design is 100 percent
lead-free, and cast in sterling silver and 14k gold. Many of the pieces,
including pendant necklaces, are unisex. Suggested retail prices range from
$125 to $1,375, with more than half of the items in the line available for just
“The flattened bullet is an anomaly, but we have
successfully perfected a method to produce this unique silhouette and designed
a beautiful setting as a showcase,” says the designer.
He chatted with JCK
more this week about the jewelry, and just whom he thinks will wear it.
Manos Phoundoulakis, Hot Caliber, Santa
Monica, Calif.; 310-929-5241.
JCK: Why bullet jewelry?
Manos Phoundoulakis: The idea came about after I took a
four-day intensive handgun-training course. I picked up a flattened bullet at
the range and brought it home to show it to my wife. The shape reminded her of
an ancient coin, and she suggested I set it in a pendant as a memento. I
thought it was a brilliant idea and did just that. After wearing it around and getting
an amazing response from friends and strangers, and I realized that with some
tweaking, it could be a stunning product with great potential in the sportsman
Uncaged Magnum cufflinks in sterling silver feature bullets
on the front and rear; $150.
JCK: Who wants to buy bullet jewelry?
MP: Since the idea has just been launched in the past two
weeks, it is tough to say. Originally, I thought it would be shooters, but what
I am finding is that I have been getting serious interest from many unlikely
demographics, like women, whom currently account for about half of our clients.
And many of our clientele have not even handled a gun! So far, we have sold
pieces to buyers ages 20–50+. The jewelry has a subtlety to it; if you don’t
know it is a bullet, then it is just an attractive piece of jewelry, and it’s
often mistaken for an ancient coin. One thing that is consistent among all our
buyers is that they are ecstatic that our pieces are made in the USA.
Marksman cufflinks in sterling silver with frame; $225.
JCK: What is your experience with shooting?
MP: I shot my first handgun when I was 13. A cousin took me
to an outdoor range and I instantly loved it. I would go target shooting with
friends several times a year, but never owned my own firearm. I bought my first
pistol—for protection—after I became a full-time sale rep in the jewelry
industry. I began to regularly attend target practice because it was a way to
become accustomed to my specific pistol, but grew into an enjoyable hobby.
Today, I shoot a Sig Sauer and a Kahr.
The Hammer, Marksman size, in a polished silver frame with
bullet and bead chain is available in 16, 18, or 20 inches; $125.
JCK: Are the cast bullets actually flat? And what model of
bullet or bullets is being cast?
MP: The bullets have the same dimensions—thicker in the
middle and tapered at the edges—as when they were collected. There are several
types that I am using for the first several editions. I shoot 100 rounds, and usually
end up with 10 decent impressions, but only one or two make the cut. To figure
this out, I have shot thousands of rounds, and I pick the most perfect
imperfect bullet to put into each edition.
The Impact, Magnum size, in a polished sterling silver frame
with oxidized silver bullet and bead chain; $150.
The Five Shot, Magnum size, in a polished sterling silver
frame with oxidized silver bullet and .03 cts. t.w. diamonds on a rubber
necklace; $525. [The five random bullets represent accuracy testing,
shooter takes five shots and measures distance between shots.]
JCK: What type or brand of bullets is being cast?
MP: I’m going to keep that one a secret for a little longer
because of the innovative nature of this concept, and the fact that, to the
best of my knowledge, it has not been done before. I can say that I have tested
with over 40 types of ammunition from various manufacturers, of different
calibers and loads, and bullet types and weights, and have a choice of which
ammo to shoot to get a specific type of result. Very few types of ammo produce
a result worth shooting.
The Impact keychain in a polished sterling silver frame with
oxidized silver bullet includes nickel-plated brass hardware; $125.
JCK: Do you cast only the bullets you fire?
MP: Currently I am only casting bullets I have fired. If
someone presents me with a bullet that they had shot and collected, I would be
happy to set it.
The Renegade 14k gold, Marksman size, has an oxidized silver
frame with a 14k gold bullet on an oxidized silver bead chain; $575.
The Renegade, Marksman size, with an oxidized silver frame and
polished silver bullet on a bead chain; $125.
JCK: So far, what kind of retail outlets are interested in selling bullet
MP: Initially I had presumed our strongest market would be
outdoors outfitters or gun stores, but now I feel our market may be more split
50/50 between those stores and traditional retailers—or even lean more heavily
towards the fine jewelry side. Because the product is jewelry, first and
foremost, I am finding that jewelry retailers are interested.
The Stealth, Magnum size, with an oxidized silver frame and
bullet on oxidized bead chain;$150.
Ammunition that provided undesirable results. “There were
LOTS of these,” says designer Manos Phoundoulakis.
The best results for Hot Caliber’s small size after shooting
100 rounds. “Maybe one or two of these will make the cut,” explains Phoundoulakis.