Peter Thum: A Modern Day Pioneer Recycles Guns Into Fine Jewelry

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 24, 2014

Q&A with Peter Thum, CEO and founder, Liberty United and Fonderie 47 and Ethos Water

This is part of an ongoing series designed to feature people who are changing the world in their Levi’s®. Our Modern Day Pioneers are impacting everything from culture to social issues to the environment, and they’re challenging the status quo in a unique way. We hope these stories will inspire and empower you to live your life to its fullest in Levi’s. Have someone we should consider? Email us! Follow the Modern Day Pioneers series here.

Being a Modern Day Pioneer means originating out-of-the-box solutions to solve the world’s biggest problems. For instance, one wouldn’t necessarily think that a fine jewelry company could play a role in solving the epidemic of gun violence both in America and abroad. But Peter Thum’s collections, Liberty United and Fonderie 47, are doing just that.

Peter’s approach to decreasing gun violence is twofold. Not only does Liberty United recycle illegal firearms and bullets from American cities into jewelry, but its sales fund not-for-profit programs to help stop gun violence in the U.S.

And the mission doesn’t end at the American border. Peter scales the model globally as the CEO and Co-Founder of Fonderie 47. The organization transforms AK47s from African war zones into high-end jewelry, watches, and accessories to fund disarmament in Africa. Today, Fonderie 47 has destroyed over 40,000 assault rifles in African conflict regions.

Peter has been effecting social change for some time now. Prior to originating his jewelry companies, he founded and was President of Ethos Water. Ethos was acquired by Starbucks in 2005 and to-date has donated more than $7.4 million to fund water access for some half a million people worldwide.

Unzipped had the opportunity to quiz this Modern Day Pioneer about his life’s work…and of course, his Levi’s.

How did you get to where you are today?

By choosing to pursue the things that I thought were the right things for me to do at the time. I’ve worked very hard at these things, sometimes even to a fault.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a new jewelry collection for Liberty United. It’s the first that we have designed in-house, and I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait for people to see it.

Tell us about how you are funding the destruction of guns in Africa?

At Fonderie 47, we recently launched our new Inversion Principle Red Gold timepiece. Like all of our products for the brand, it includes metal from an AK47. It also features elements and mechanisms that evoke key attributes of AK47s. Revenues from the sale of each Inversion Principle Red Gold will be used to fund the destruction of 1,000 assault weapons in Africa, creating a safer environment for aid and development. My goal for Fonderie 47 is to fund the destruction of another 10,000 guns in Africa in the coming months. Through the same approach, we have already destroyed over 40,000 assault rifles in Africa to date.

How did you get the idea of Fonderie 47? What inspired you to do so?

After founding Ethos Water, I was on a water project in Africa with the brand and came across men and children with assault rifles. No words can adequately describe what that was like. That experience, and going in person into the war zone in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, inspired me to look for a way to help fund disarmament and reduce gun violence in Africa and start Fonderie 47.

What is your first Levi’s-related memory?

When I was a kid, Levi’s were really stiff when you bought them. You had to break them in and then you would try to preserve them as long as possible once they were really worn in and fit perfectly. When I got a new pair of 501 jeans, I would jump in the swimming pool, and then leave them outside in the weather for a while.

What are you most likely to be doing in your Levi’s?

Pretty much everything. I wear jeans everyday and at almost every occasion, unless the invite says different.

What legacy do you hope to leave in the world?

I’d like my daughter to live a happy and fulfilling life. And I’d like to save and improve the lives of as many people as possible.