The New York Times recently published an article in its Style section about Fonderie 47, an organization that creates (incredibly) expensive jewelry made out of AK-47s confiscated by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo from the conflict-ridden North Kivu Province. Each piece of jewelry is stamped with the serial number of the weapon it was made from. Fonderie 47 is a nonprofit organization; sales of the jewelry go toward groups that work to destroy the weapons in the Congo. They claim to have destroyed 6,000 weapons so far.

The founder says,

“We saw the AK-47 as an opportunity because it’s such a successful design. It’s something that’s globally recognizable. What better way to turn things around than with this object, which represents so many things ugly, and turn it into something beautiful?”

The conflict in the DCR is notorious and terrifying for its use of rape as a weapon of war. Many of the people involved — both victims and perpetrators — are children. The AK-47, in the context of the Congo, is not simply a weapon that “represents so many things ugly” — an AK-47 confiscated from the Congo is a weapon that was used to commit acts of incomprehensible brutality. These objects feel incapable of transformation. The horrific nature of the acts in which they have been a tool negates that possibility.

The article in the Times opens with the price of a pair of Fonderie 47 earrings — “a $150,000 political statement” — and the lowest price point mentioned in the article (another pair of earrings) is $23,000. This company is selling jewelry for many thousands of dollars from the particular rifles that have been used as weapons of rape. To sell such jewelry on the basis of this fact — to trade on the weapons’ “authenticity,” as it were — is to glamorize, inexcusably, the terrifying conflict in which the rifles play a crucial role.

Why does Fonderie 47 need to use weapons specifically from the Congo, or specifically from any conflict-ridden locale? The weapon is notoriously ubiquitous — it is certainly possible to obtain AK-47s that have not already been used in conflict, while still donating proceeds to destroying those used in active conflict in Africa. But then, even if this company were to sell jewelry made from unused AK-47s, they would still be trading on a symbol of countless continuing wars around the world.

Of course, glamorizing weapons and war is nothing new. Interestingly, those dictators who are behind many of the conflicts in which AK-47s proliferate fetishize their weapons as well. (When Qaddafi was captured and killed, he was carrying a customized golden gun; one of many that he owned.) But to glamorize weapons and war and trade on that glamorization in the name of resolving that same conflict is hypocritical and astonishingly blind.

Instead of spending $35,000 on a pair of cufflinks (which, Fonderie 47 tells us, would destroy 100 rifles) and glamorizing the conflict that purchase purports to help, why not spend that $35,000 buying and destroying AK-47s from Africa? (According to, the asking price of an AK-47 in the Congo is $50 — so it sounds like you’d be able to destroy 600 more rifles, as well.) Perhaps because without the cufflinks, one wouldn’t be able to fetishize such violence so exquisitely.

In recent times, in which the rhetoric of the 1% and 99% is everywhere we look, to illustrate so blatantly the divide between the super-rich and the most poor and overlooked people on the planet as does Fonderie 47 is extraordinary, and feels almost ruthlessly grim.

If you’d like to help victims of violence in the Congo, consider donating to one (or both) of these organizations: or the International Rescue Community.

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