Caliber Collection fashions jewelry to take guns off the streets

Jessica Mindich designs jewelry made from guns confiscated by the Newark, N.J. police. In turn she donates money to back to the police department to get more guns off the street.

By , Contributor

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    Jessica Mindich poses with Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J. Her business, Caliber jewelry, donated a check for $40,000 to the city's gun buyback program. The jewelry is made from confiscated gun parts.
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Perhaps borrowing Shakespeare’s expression of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve, Jessica Mindich wears her passion on her wrist.

The former lawyer and mother of two, founder of Jewelry for a Cause, has most recently begun to tackle the issue of gun violence – and she set Newark, N.J. in her sights.

The jewelry designer partnered with Mayor Cory Booker and the city’s police director, Samuel DeMaio, to launch the Caliber Collection – made up of the metal from 250 revolvers, pistols, semi-automatic assault weapons, and bullet casings seized by city police that have been transformed into cuffs and bangles.

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And each piece is as traceable as the weapon it came from – with both “Newark” and the serial number of the original weapon etched into the jewelry.

“The Caliber bracelet is a real gun … an illegal gun that no longer exists on the street,” Ms. Mindich says. “By wearing this bracelet, the buyer is responsible for this gun coming off the street and never going back on the street … they can proudly say, ‘I am wearing a gun that will never kill someone’s loved one.’ ”

But customers of the Caliber Collection can do more than just make a statement – a portion of each sale goes directly to the Newark Police Department to help it expand and continue its gun buyback amnesty program and get more guns off city streets.

Earlier this month, Mindich presented a check in the amount of $40,000 to Mr. Booker – the result of just nine weeks of sales dating back to the collection’s debut in late November.

The response has been overwhelming for Mindich, who first met Booker at a conference in December 2011 and drew a connection to her work designing jewelry as a fund-raising tool. From there, the partnership between the city, the police department, and Jewelry for a Cause began.

And she hopes that the recent donation and the benefits experienced in Newark are not the end of the line.

“My long-term hope is to bring Caliber to cities across America and remove illegal guns from the streets, and have people around the world recognize Caliber as a symbol of strength and hope,” Mindich says. “We have also established the Caliber Foundation to bring random acts of kindness to the families of victims of senseless gun violence.”

Gun violence has taken center stage in political discussions and legislative debates in recent months, particularly after 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six staff members to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, before killing himself.

Mindich, who launched the collection weeks before the incident, said that the national discussion helped to raise awareness of the perils of gun violence.

The reach of the Caliber Collection, she says, has been global – with individuals across the country as well as in Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and South America reaching out to her.

“It is clear that gun violence is something that touches many people. It is incredibly rewarding for me to see this jewelry touch so many people around the world,” she says. “Caliber is so much more than a fashion statement – it is a symbol of solidarity around the need to eliminate senseless illegal gun violence.”

While Mindich has received comments from family members of victims, she also received a message from an individual who moved to Newark just before becoming a teacher there. It was two weeks before that job started that one of the individual’s soon-to-be students was killed in his sleep when a man in the apartment below him was “checking out” his new, loaded assault rifle. The weapon fired into the boy’s bed above.

“Though I never got to teach him, let alone meet him, I will never forget his name...,” the individual wrote to Mindich. “Your bracelets are a voice to all of the victims.”

For Mindich, the initiative is about using jewelry to have a real impact in the face of such a challenge.

“Caliber bracelets are real,” she says, “… real guns ... real human lives saved.”

• To learn more or shop the Caliber Collection, visit http://calibercollection.com.

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