Head Nod To: Helen Morgan via ecouterre
Fonderie 47 is on a mission to turn weapons of mass destruction into implements of mass distraction. The burgeoning enterprise, co-founded by Ethos Water CEO Peter Thum, transforms confiscated AK-47 rifles from the Democratic Republic of Congo into ornate accessories that belie their violent history. By melting down the steel components, and working with jewelers Philip Crangi and Roland Iten to refashion them with gold into rings, earrings, and cuff links, Fonderie 47 has successfully removed more than 6,000 assault rifles from the war-ravaged nation.
Thum met John Zapolski, now his business partner, in 2009 at TED, where they bonded over their recollections of young African men and boys who were armed to the teeth with munitions and assault weapons. “After some time, we agreed that we’d try to do something to tackle the issue, but only if it was substantial and lasting,” Thum tells Ecouterre. “I felt that that making rare pieces—jewelry, watches and accessories—from the transformed guns could inspire the right people in the right way. John felt that what we did had to be aboutbeauty and craft.”
Profits feed into the Fonderie 47 Foundation, a charity that finances nongovernmental organizations such as the Mines Advisory Group.
Although Fonderie 47 is a for-profit venture, sales of the jewelry feed into the Fonderie 47 Foundation, a charity that finances nongovernmental organizations such as the Mines Advisory Group, which is tasked by Congo’s government to demolish the weapons. Plus, each piece funds the destruction of a specific number of assault AK-47s in Africa, Thum adds. A steel-and-gold signet ring, for example, finances the demolition of 75 guns, and comes etched with the serial number of the weapon it once was.
“Our venture’s mission is to significantly reduce the number and impact of these weapons in Africa,” Thum says. “To make significant progress on this mission, our venture will act as a catalyst to put this issue on the list of seemingly impossible problems that must and can be tackled.”