Armed and Beautiful

Call them weapons of mass decoration. This spring, guns, bullets and grenades are the focal point for a handful of jewelry designers.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD A issue 10/20/2008

Call them weapons of mass decoration. This spring, guns, bullets and grenades are the focal point for a handful of jewelry designers looking to put a positive spin on the politically charged symbols.

This story first appeared in the October 20, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

One such designer knows the perils of war firsthand. Rafi Anteby, a former officer in the Israeli army and former head of a counterterrorism consulting group here in the U.S., created his Los Angeles-based line Bullets 4 Peace as an antidote to our violent times.

“I’ve witnessed many conflicts in my life including wars in the Middle East,” says Anteby, who in 2006 introduced the fashion line ShaDang. “We live in a very sensitive time and space and I feel a strong need to make a statement.”

As a result, he crafted necklaces featuring real bullets with a message of peace, including a bullet opening into a lotus flower accented by a ruby in the  middle, retailing for $450. Basic necklaces on chains, leather or suede cords start at $300, whereas a sterling silver bullet necklace with pavé diamonds retails for $1,500.

Anteby also looks to donate a portion of sales to charity with his “Every Bullet Has a Target” program.

Donna Gunther, owner of Surfing Cowboys in Venice Beach, Calif., admits she was hesitant to bring charm necklaces featuring a brass skull with two six-shooters, a gas mask with rhinestone eyes and a hammered dog tag from Los Angeles-based Apocolucky Charms, into her “peacenik” neighborhood.

“We wondered how people were going to respond,” she says, noting that “They’re selling surprisingly well.”

Gunther attributes the success of the pieces to their ability to trigger meaningful discussions.

“In our environment, the war is heavy on everyone’s mind, but it’s hard to be communicating about it on a regular basis, especially in the fashion world,” she says. “But with these pieces it becomes a point of conversation. It creates an awareness.”

The line, designed by Dax Savage, retails at $84 for a necklace with two charms to $192 for a necklace with five charms.

Jewelry designer Zani Gugelmann created her silver bullet necklaces to open in the form of a capsule, encouraging buyers to enclose their own inspirational message or wish. After all, a silver bullet is defined as a simple or seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem, she says.

To further the positive message of the line, called Santo (meaning “saint” in Spanish), the New York-based designer plans to donate 10 percent of sales from four new necklaces, featuring sterling silver bullets wrapped in different-colored gemstones and retailing from $350 to $850, to charity. For example, a portion of the ruby banded bullet sales will go toward an AIDS charity whereas part of proceeds from the pink sapphire banded necklace will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Justin Tranter, designer of the Brooklyn-based line Fetty, discovered a large audience responds to his signature heart and gun necklaces. The pieces sold so well at Urban Outfitters, Tranter, who initially designed the necklaces to sell at concerts to promote and finance his garage glam band Semi Precious Weapons, launched a higher-priced 14-karat gold and diamond collection of charm necklaces featuring a damaged heart with a gun, axe or saw, retailing at Barneys Co-op from $525 to $675.

“People really like their jewelry to mean something,” says Tranter, who enclosed a gun necklace in some copies of his debut CD release last month. “This jewelry tells the story.”

In Philadelphia, fashion and jewelry designer Melanie Brandon struck a deal with her hometown to make her collection of cuffs, bracelets, rings and pendants from the metal of melted guns confiscated from city streets.

“I wanted to take something that was destructive and turn it into something beautiful,” says Brandon, whose line is called Melani Von Alexandria. “With each piece made, another gun is off the street.”

Currently in production, the collection, which is expected to be available in December, will retail at $200 for a gunmetal cuff sporting the initials MVA to $2,500 for a chunky pendant necklace of gunmetal, diamonds and crystal quartz.

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