The designer, wearing one of her bangles.Wonder Woman isn't the only one who can stop bullets with her bracelets now, thanks to a Connecticut-based jewelry designer who's fighting gun violence with style.
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Jessica Mindich's newly released Caliber Collection includes shiny steel cuffs and bangles made from illegal guns, all taken off the streets of Newark, NJ, by the police department there.
The bracelets, which each come engraved with the serial number of a seized gun, retail for $150 to $300 a piece, with partial proceeds directly funding Newark's popular gun amnesty buyback program (Mindich recently handed over a check for $20,000). That program lets anyone trade in an illegal gun for $200 cash, no questions asked, and took in more than 850 guns last year, according to a CBS report on Mindich's collection.
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Similar gun buyback programs have been rising in popularity nationally ever since the deadly Newtown shooting in December. But Mindich began working on her Caliber Collection--which also includes brass bangles ($175-$375) made of repurposed shell casings found at crime scenes--about a year ago.
That's when she met Newark Mayor Corey Booker through a mutual friend, at a gathering where everyone was discussing various societal issues that needed tackling. "Corey obviously had a very on-point perspective when he brought up the issue of illegal guns in American cities," Mindich told Yahoo! Shine. She said she realized that "The problem was the nexus from which all the other social ills discussed came out of. I began to think of how I would help."
Steel bangleMindich was no stranger to activism. A mother of two and a former lawyer, she had founded, in 2008, Jewelry for a Cause, a company devoted to the idea that "purchasing jewelry could indeed be guilt-free, even an act of philanthropy." She has created styles to increase both awareness of and funds for issues ranging from Alzheimer's disease to the drinking water shortage in developing nations. And taking on gun violence, she said, was a natural next step.
"Corey made it happen," she said, explaining that Mayor Booker put her in touch with the Newark police department heads. "They are innovative, and they are not afraid to let other people help," she reported about her interactions with police. Booker, she added, even collaborated on the jewelry design process. "He made it clear: No gun imagery," she said.
While the first pieces in her collection were made from 250 guns seized from crime scenes and then released from evidence, future batches will be created directly from guns received by police through the buyback program. (All the firearms are shredded at a Jersey City factory before Mindich's company receives them, despite her 10-year-old son's fears that they'd be receiving UPS boxes of guns on their doorstep, she said)
"Sadly, I will never run out of the supply," Mindich noted. She said she's received positive feedback from victims of gun violence, as well as fans of her designs.
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"Her most recent line takes a dangerous and destructive thing and turns into a fabulous and beautiful symbol of renewal, while supporting an important initiative," wrote Vanity Fair's beauty and fashion editor Jill Edelstein on a recent VF Agenda blog post.
Mindich's future plans include expanding the collection into other cities, possibly with a less expensive line.
"Unfortunately, there are too many cities with this as a huge issue," she said. Her goal, she added, is both huge and simple: "To engage the people who will never walk those streets, and still give them a way to help."