In December 2011 Jessica Mindich listened to a talk on gun violence by Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, that left her stunned. "I was completely unaware of the enormity of the problem," she says. "I couldn't look away." Mindich, who designs jewelry as fund-raising tools, decided she wanted to create something for Booker's city. Together, she says, they developed the idea of salvaging the brass and steel remains of the pistols, shotguns, and shell casings seized by Newark police at crime scenes to make the initial line of Caliber Collection bracelets. "We wanted to turn the destructive weapons into symbols of renewal," Mindich says. She pledged to give 20 percent of proceeds to the Newark Police Department (NPD) to fund the city's gun buyback program. Booker just didn't want the design to convey the materials' gritty origins; Mindich half-worried that "he wanted only butterflies or rainbows!"
After the police drop off a batch of guns at the metal shredder, the scraps are sealed in plastic bins and transported to a foundry, where they're mixed with a softening alloy and then cast into an oval mold to shape the bracelet. Mindich's five-person team embosses each bracelet with a shredded gun's serial number and "Newark", and hammers the surface for a dimpled look.
In just four months, the bracelet sales allowed Mindich—who spent her childhood "collecting pennies, jump-roping, roller-skating, and selling candy bars for causes"—to donate $60,000 to the NPD. She has expanded the line beyond the signature bangles and cuffs to cuff links (from $150 at JewelryforaCause.net). Mindich hopes to bring the concept to other American cities with high homicide rates. "I am fiercely proud of this project," she says. "The jewelry has the potential to raise the quality of life in Newark by getting these guns off the streets."
— Elzy Kolb