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The ability to transform a tool of war into a functional piece of art is a beautiful, and profoundly impactful manifestation. It is inspiring on a purely practical, and darkly aesthetic, level, yet can benefit humanity at the same time. Peter Thum, the man behind Fonderie 47 and the jewelry company Liberty United has made it his work to take illicit arms and guns from the streets of America, and from communities in Central Africa, and repurpose them for less deadly uses.
Thum, founder and former president of Ethos Water (scooped up by Starbucks), created Liberty United to fund initiatives that would remove illegal guns from American streets, with the goal of making neighborhoods safer. The brilliant twist is that the anti-gun violence programs are supported through the sales of jewelry made with parts from confiscated guns. Fonderie 47, which has “funded the destruction of more than 50,000 assault rifles in Africa” to date, runs on a similar principle. The company turns rifles and other weapons into gorgeous watches and striking pieces of high-end jewelry.
By taking “old, cheap and illicit” military hardware and transforming it into art, Peter Thum and his team are not only providing expensive jewelry (with a watch coming in at just under $200,000) to those who can afford such fancy gear (and want a fabulous conversation starter), but also providing a platform for getting the word out about the damage guns can do to global communities, small and large.
While most people believe AK47s are only good for one thing (and sadly, are often right), Fonderie 47 seeks to change that notion by demonstrating that when broken down, a gun is just a bunch of parts that doesn’t inevitably have to be used for the lethal purpose it was originally designed for. And when a customer hands over tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bracelet, pendant or watch, he or she can be sure the money will be put to excellent use, funding the destruction of hundreds, or even thousands of conflict-stirring assault rifles.
Adrian Glessing, the team’s watch designer, brings years of knowhow—gained during his time designing for the automotive and Swiss watch industries—to this charitable luxury brand. “As designers, we try and magnify the work that people don’t so much see,” he says. To that end, on a quest to make the “best looking” watch he could design “related to the practicality of the object,” Glessing sought to utilize the dark gray steel of the AK47, and fit it ‘into the watch in a beautiful way.”
The end results—regardless if we’re talking about a watch or sculpted jewelry—is an outstanding timepiece or wearable piece of art, with heartbeats of their own, beating to support a very noble cause in an exceptionally elegant way. ■