Metal of Honor
Greenwich resident Jessica Mindich takes her Caliber Collection to new heights as she works to get illegal guns off the streets
Lindsey Watts/Jewelry for a Cause; Bracelets by William Taufic
Having a power broker such as U.S. Senator Cory Booker present one of your recycled gunmetal bracelets to talk show host Rachel Maddow is bound to generate some buzz for your latest jewelry collection. And of course, Jewelry for a Cause founder and CEO Jessica Mindich appreciates such high-profile shout-outs for her latest philanthropic venture, the Raise the Caliber collection, which features edgy pieces rendered from guns bought off the streets of America’s most violent cities.
Yet the Greenwich resident—who since 2008 has been creating jewelry as a fundraising vehicle for nonprofits—is much more interested in highlighting the transformative good that publicity can generate than dishing on the latest celebrities seen wearing her designs.
“The attention is amazing,” says Jessica, “but the idea is really to focus the attention on what gun violence is doing to our cities.”
For Jessica, transforming guns and shell cases into forged, engraved steel and brass bracelets and cufflinks goes beyond making a fashion statement: She takes a generous portion of her line’s profits to underwrite gun buyback programs in violence-scarred cities such as Newark, New Jersey and San Francisco. (Expect more cities to be announced soon.)
It was Senator Booker, Newark’s former mayor and a law school classmate of Jessica’s husband, who first put urban gun violence in the designer’s sights. In April 2013, she underwrote Newark’s first privately funded buyback since 1999. Gun owners were paid up to $250 to turn in almost 400 guns “absolutely no questions asked.”
Jessica explains enticing gun owners to surrender their weapons can be transformative in a myriad of ways, but many blighted cities simply can’t afford such campaigns. “Yet we know that in some cities a gang gun can be responsible for ten murders a month,” she says.
While getting a gun off the streets can be a powerful thing, so is the symbolism of rendering that metal into something provocative and beautiful.
Jessica is particularly inspired by Raise the Caliber’s collaboration with noted sculptor Michael Khalish, who recently used two-thousand pounds of shredded illegal guns to create a sixty-foot sculpture. The creation is scheduled to be installed next month in Jessica’s hometown of Hartford and will remain for several months in the city that’s been struggling with gun violence.
Just like her jewelry, Jessica calls the sculpture a “symbol of powerlessness, a symbol of hope, a symbol of peace and a symbol of what we can do for our cities that have been riddled with gun violence.”