On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the 46664 Global Bangle Initiative held at the Montblanc store on Madison Ave in New York. The Initiative employs South African craftsmen affected by HIV/AIDS and fair-trade metals to create the unique jewelry brand, 46664 (Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island prison number). The Nelson Mandela Fund benefits from the Bangle Initiative because it receives 60 percent of bracelet sale proceeds, and the Montblanc event marked the launch of U.S. bracelet sales (Montblanc is one of the retailers selling the pieces, and it kicked off the Initiative officially at its Bond Street store in London in June).
“We wanted to create a sustainable business that would benefit those affected by HIV and AIDS,” Robert Coutts, CEO, Coutts Inc., told JCKstyle during the event. Coutts, a one-time Johannesburg computer industry entrepreneur, abandoned the corporate world fours years to become an HIV/AIDS activist. Coutts aimed to create a completely South African initiative to provide jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, and his relationship with The Nelson Mandela Fund and the 46664 Bangle Initiative enables all parties to benefit.
“From machining and tooling to packaging, this is a South African solution to a South African and international problem,” Coutts explained. “Even the bangle boxes are being made local from recycled material, providing much-needed local employment, when they could have been imported more cheaply from China. This is how you create wealth for those who have no access to opportunity.”
Copper lines the sterling silver bracelets.
Because the bracelets are all handmade by South African artisans—53 are currently employed, from bracelet production to packaging—pieces are created in small batches. To date, two bangle-making factories, one training facility, and two packaging factories exist (though Coutts says a third box factory is in the works).
Some 8,000 bracelets have already been sold in London, as the launch was timed to coincide with Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. To commemorate the occasion, a limited number of first edition bangles were made, including 90 platinum bangles; 90 24k gold bangles; 466 18k gold bangles; and 46,664 silver bangles.
The bangle is available in men’s and women’s sizes, and the design bears Mandela’s Robben Island, five-digit prison cell number, 46664, a 3D imprint of his left hand, and a unique serial number that allows the owner to authenticate and register the piece and receive a letter of thanks from the 46664 Foundation. Another notable aspect of the style: “The opening [in the cuff] symbolizes freedom,” says Julie Murphy, vice president of business development, 46664 Bangle Initiative, whereas Mandela’s handcuffs were completely restrictive. Bangle prices are $181 in silver, $4,988 in 18k gold, $6,100 for 24k gold, and $12,316 for platinum.
Montblanc, New York; (800) 995-4810; www.montblanc.com.
46664 Bangles, Johannesburg, South Africa; (44-845) 22 46664; www.46664.com/bangle.
From left to right: Rael Kahn, designer, Coutts Inc. (the company responsible for the development and design of the 46664 bangle); Robert Coutts, CEO, Coutts Inc.; Julie Murphy, vice president of business development, 46664 Bangle; Mike Giannattasion, vice president of sales, Montblanc; and David Kallenberg, store manager, Montblanc Madison Avenue Boutique.
The Children’s Choir of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn performed for guests during the event.