Former Starbucks exec transforms AK-47s into high-end jewelry

A visionary speaker is one example of the TEDxSMU 2011 presentations.

By Cheryl Hall

Peter Thum’s ring bears an unusual inscription: 56-13305582.

That’s the serial number of the AK-47 that was destroyed in the Democratic Republic of Congo to make it.

For $25,600, you can own a handcrafted ring similar to his. And when you buy it, you’re also paying to destroy 75 assault weapons.

Buy a limited-edition set of cufflinks for $35,000, and Fonderie 47, Thum’s New York company, will make certain that 100 of these deadly firearms are never used again to maim or kill. Go for the pièce de résistance, a pair of $150,000 earrings, and you’ll put 500 firearms to eternal rest.

Call it disarmament by adornment.

“We envision an Africa free from the fear of assault rifles,” says Thum, a 43-year-old social entrepreneur who launched Fonderie 47 in November. “Beauty, design, craft and rarity come together to transform this negative thing — a gun — into an object of desire. Owners become agents of disarmament.”

Founderie 47 doesn’t buy weapons. It funds a nongovernment organization, Mines Advisory Group, that destroys assault rifles collected by the Congolese government and the United Nations so that the guns don’t seep back into society.

Fonderie is French for foundry, and 47 is the year the AK-47 was unleashed on the world by the Soviet Union.

Thum Thoom was in Dallas last weekend to speak at TEDxSMU 2011, a local symposium authorized by the international TED organization. This annual gathering showcases visionary speakers who discuss how technology, entertainment and design can make the world a better place for all its creatures.

That’s been Thum’s mission possible for the last decade....