Business makes jewelry from illegal firearms

  • Kendall Knysch photo
Kendall Knysch photo
October 14, 2013|By Courtney Griffin, RedEye | RedEye

Business and social activism don’t always go hand-in-hand. But for Peter Thum, entrepreneur and creator of Liberty United, that’s the only business he knows.

Founded in 2013 by Thum and his wife, actress Cara Buono, Liberty United creates jewelry using illegal firearms that have been removed from circulation in the U.S. Labeling their product as “Remade in the U.S.A.,” Liberty United works with cities across the country to collect confiscated weaponry and create bracelets, necklaces and rings.

Thum, a graduate of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, is bringing his product to Chicago Ideas Week. Liberty United will be stationed in the lobby of the Cadillac Palace Theatre through Saturday. The company will donate 25 percent of the proceeds from some collections to programs that work to reduce gun violence in the U.S., he said.

“A portion of the money goes back to the communities affected,” said Thum, 45, who is based out of New York City.

If Thum’s past ventures are any indication of the success in store for Liberty United, then there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. Thum’s first business was a water bottle company that provided a month’s worth of water to individuals in need around the world. Thum named the company Ethos, and sold the brand to Starbucks a short time later.

Thum also is the founder of Fonderie 47, a high-end jewelry company that uses recycled assault rifle parts from African countries to make its product. He was inspired to create the brand after a frightening run-in with armed Kenyan and Tanzanian children and men in 2008.

“We decided we needed to do something about this assault weapon problem,” Thum said. Fonderie 47 has now destroyed and recycled more than 34,000 assault rifles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

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