By Simone Preuss on May 24, 2011

Outside their original context, old bullets and reclaimed gun parts can become fashion items, coming with a message that hits the target — and goes beyond just recycling.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

Upcycling works best when the repurposed object is not only turned into something grander and more beautiful (thus transcending its original purpose), but also when its meaning changes. Guns and bullets, for example, can be stripped of their violent associations and transformed into something evocative of quite the opposite — in this case in the form of jewelry that speaks of people drawn together rather than waging war on one another.

Image: Gr0glmann, used with permission

Image: Gr0glmann, used with permission

What's more, the good news is that there are quite a few designers out there committed to the cause. The stud earrings above were made from Remington 40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol bullet casing shells, for instance, while the ring below was once a Ruger Blackhawk trigger.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

New York City-based jewelry designers ken + dana are committed to anti-violence and the ethical production and sourcing of their merchandise. The creative trio, consisting of Ken Leung, Dana Chin and Radika Chin, makes stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces of handmade jewelry.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

In addition, the designers try to reduce their carbon footprint wherever they can and support a number of admirable causes. Case in point being their B-Side Gun series, which supports the Bronx Chapter of the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, with 10% of the proceeds from the series donated to the charity.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

The unisex designs are not only extremely beautiful, but also really quite clever. Gun components are used, but sometimes it's only apparent at a second glance what the jewelry is made of. The earrings below, for example, look like they were made with beautiful, abstract symbols in mind, but in truth, they turn a symbol of violence into fashion, made as they are from two old Colt 1911 firing pins.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

Or take the necklace below, named "Jack AR-15.” It's made out of AR-15 hammer and trigger pins, and strung onto an oxidized silver chain. We should mention, by the way, that the parts are sourced from gun manufacturers, so while this isn't reuse, per se, it's certainly repurposing of the most honorable kind — reclaiming weapon components before they can find their way off the production line, onto the streets and into people's hands, where they could do untold harm.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

Talking about the idea behind the B-Side Gun series, ken + dana have this to say: "We wanted to focus on the parts of a gun that are involved in the "action" — triggers, firing pins, etc. — to give the works an edgy look. At the same time, we wanted to subvert the violence normally associated with these parts. By using actual gun components from their manufacturers, we ensure these parts never make their way into a working gun."

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

This pendant looks harmless enough — and it is; it's just that it's fashioned from a Colt 1911 firing pin. To add a Biblical message, "Isaiah 2:4" is engraved onto a small silver plate, referring to the verse, "Then they will hammer their swords into plow-blades" — a reference to the transformation of violent instruments into peaceful tools. What’s not to like?

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

Artists, musicians and celebrities seem to have jumped onto the anti-violence gun jewelry cause, too. The Ivy AR-15 design was inspired by ken + dana’s friend and poet J-Ivy (featured on Kanye West's song, "Never Let me Down"). The team coordinated the release of the piece with the debut of J-Ivy's album, Here I Am.

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

If you’re wearing a Cassidy AR-15 on your finger, you’re sure to attract more than a few stares, maybe even one or two raised eyebrows! This ring is made of an old AR-15 trigger, to which a silver ring shank was attached. Clever and unusual!

Image: ken + dana design, used with permission

And for those who like a little more subtlety in their fashion accessories, there’s this almost filigree necklace, the pendant of which is a reused Colt firing pin cone. As the small engraved plate next to it indicates, each item is individually numbered to track the pieces sold for the cause.

Ken + dana explain: “Living in NYC, it often seems we never go more than a week without hearing of a tragedy caused by guns and violence. Rather than spend our energy on fear or contempt, we’ve decided to take this instrument that represents violence and reframe it as a symbol of non-violence.”

Image: Adi Zaffran, used with permission

Residing in a war-torn area of the world, Israel-based designer Adi Zaffran couldn’t agree more. He makes many different practical items, such as toasters, tables and chairs, hangers and other everyday objects. For his jewelry series, he collected used bullets from a firing range and turned them into surprisingly beautiful finger art — like these battle-scarred but still beautiful copper-colored rings.

Image: Adi Zaffran, used with permission

Talking about his project, Zaffran says: “The rings… remove the bullet from its original function and they surprisingly turn into a bejeweled object and emphasize the beauty and esthetics of the bullet when it is distanced from its surroundings. Every bullet retains memories and traces of the journey it underwent from the moment it was fired until it was picked up.”

Image: Adi Zaffran, used with permission

Explosive jewelry, so to speak. Surprisingly, some of the old bullets remind one of petals, others of pearls. It seems as though there is indeed a natural connection between creation and destruction.

Image: Gr0glmann, used with permission

Pittsburgh-based Etsy seller Gr0glmann, aka Cufflinks, specializes in — what else? — cufflinks. He creates them out of Lego, Scrabble and Monopoly pieces, and used shotgun shells. The ones pictured above are silver-plated, 12-gauge shotgun shells, 0.8" in diameter. He says of his merchandise: “These are used (no worries, they're completely safe) and polished to shine!”

Image: Gr0glmann, used with permission

The shotgun shell cufflinks come in various metallic shades, often looking like sturdy buttons, almost allowing one to forget their violent past — or at least view it in a wholly different context. Decorative shirt fasteners are not all Gr0glmann offers; we've already come across some of his earrings toward the top of the post, and this ring was crafted from an old Remington 30-30-caliber Winchester rifle bullet casing shell.

Image: Gr0glmann, used with permission

Though wearers of upcycled gun jewelry do not have to fear the violent potential of their accessories, they should be aware that gun components are made of steel and can rust if exposed to water for long periods. Ken + dana’s tip: “If you jump into a lake, be sure to dry the jewelry.” We’ll stick with that advice, and hope against hope that in the future, gun components will be made for fashion purposes only. Peace on!

Additional sources: 1, 2

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Simone is a writer and editor at Environmental Graffiti, an innovative green site currently looking for writers! Imagine having your work seen by up to 10 milli[...]
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