You've probably heard about gun buy-back programs aimed at getting illegal firearms off the streets, but what about jewelry that is crafted from these weapons and sold in an effort to combat crime? Enter The Caliber Collection, a fashion line by Jewelry for a Cause (JfaC), a group that helps non-profits use fashion as a fundraising tool. Using guns and bullets acquired from 250 illegal weapons that were collected in Newark, N.J., the company has molded, created and put bracelets on sale in an effort to help prevent violent crime. TheBlaze interviewed JfaC founder Jessica Mindich on Wednesday to learn more about her unique program.
Mindich explained that the idea for the jewelry line came after she met Newark Mayor Cory Booker at a conference in 2011. She recalls being inspired by a speech he gave about gun violence in his city. It was his passion, Mindich says, that helped spawn the idea for The Caliber Collection, as she felt his words -- and devotion -- helped motivate her to action.
Photo Credit: The Caliber Collection
"As a designer who creates jewelry as a fundraising tool, I felt like this was a way that I could contribute to being part of the solution," she told TheBlaze in an e-mail. "After the conference, Mayor Booker introduced me to the Newark Director of Police Samuel DeMaio and with his support I worked with the Police Department to make this project happen. It has truly been a collaborative effort."
The Newark Police Department decided to work with Mindich , providing her with illegal guns and bullet casings that had been seized by officers. After each firearm was processed by authorities, the designer worked with Sims Metal Management in Jersey City, N.J., to shred the metal and turn the weapons into wearable creations. While these interesting bracelets are certainly conversation pieces, Mindich's purpose with The Caliber Collection is to do more than simply make nifty jewelry -- it's to help alleviate the gun violence issue.
Jessica Mindich (Photo Credit: Jewelry for a Cause)
JfaC donates a portion of the sales for each of the bracelets (they range from $150 to $375 per piece) to Newark's Gun Buyback Amnesty program. A section on the initiative's web site describes the project as follows: "The result is a series of pieces that embody the gun’s transformation from a destructive weapon to a powerful symbol of renewal. Jewelry for a Cause proudly donates a portion of the proceeds from each sale to the Gun Buyback Amnesty program in Newark."
Rather than delving into the overarching gun debate, The Caliber Collection tackles the damage and carnage that often comes at the hands of illegal firearms. According to Mindich, a statement is made by those who choose to wear the bracelets. That message, as she explained to TheBlaze, tells others that the individual is "interested in seeing illegal guns taken off our streets" and that the person donning the jewelry wants "to be part of the solution."
The entrepreneur says that the Caliber project is a symbol of hope -- one that works toward the elimination of "senseless illegal gun violence." And it is an effort that has caught global attention. So far, Mindich says that the response has been "incredible," with individuals from "practically every state" and in countries across the world writing to express their positive views.
"It is clear that gun violence is something that touches many people," she said. "It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see this jewelry touch so many people around the world."
Of course, gun-focused programs, especially in the current political cycle, raise eyebrows among individuals on both sides of the aisle. When asked if the Caliber project has a vested stake in the "liberal vs. conservative" paradigm, Mindich indicated that it is something she believes everyone -- regardless of political affiliation and inclination -- can support.
"I think that one thing everyone can agree on is the fewer illegal guns on the streets being used by criminals the better," the designer and advocate said.
While The Caliber Collection started with 250 guns from the Newark Police Department, Mindich has no plans to stop the initiative, telling TheBlaze that she will continue the partnership as long as it benefits authorities.
Photo Credit: The Caliber Collection
After just six weeks of sales, the Caliber project brought in enough for her company to donate $20,000 to the Newark Police Department for an upcoming buyback initiative. The effort will then be continued with new guns that are collected, spawning a cycle of buy-back and jewelry creation that benefits both Mindich's business and Newark's local government.
It should be noted, however, that Mindich's detractors will likely cite the donation of thousands of dollars to a gun buyback program as evidence of her leanings. After all, such programs don't just target illegal guns. In fact, gun supporters in Seattle recently tried to undermine one by setting up and offering buyback participants money for their guns before they were turned in to be destroyed.
Either way, the success of the jewelry line has led to discussions with other cities who are interested in raising funds for similar gun buyback programs. Mindich praised her public-private partnership as an example of how government and business can work together to help solve complex social problems.
"Soon the inside of Caliber bracelets may read Detroit, or New Orleans, or Baltimore, or Chicago, or Oakland and people all over the world will have a way to participate in this virtuous circle," she said.
For more about the project, go here.