By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Guns and bullets seized from Chicago-area crimes will be melted down and turned into jewelry by a company that pledges to give part of the profit to at-risk children, company and government officials said on Wednesday.
The Cook County Sheriff's Office collects about 1,500 guns a year, along with ammunition, said Sheriff Thomas Dart. If the guns are no longer needed in an investigation, they are destroyed.
Under a partnership with New York-based Liberty United, run by entrepreneur Peter Thum, the county will allow the guns and ammunition to be made into bracelets, rings and necklaces that cost from $35 to $1,600.
From 20 to 25 percent of the profits will go to Cook County non-profit groups, starting with Children's Home + Aid, which provides services to families in Chicago's high-crime Englewood neighborhood.
Thum said he's excited to take the project into the nation's third-largest city, which saw 414 homicides in 2013.
"Chicago is a city that has suffered a lot over the past few years because of gun violence," he said. "There's an interesting opportunity to do something here."
Thum is best known as the founder of Ethos Water, which helped raise funds for safe water programs and was sold to Starbucks in 2005. After he left Ethos, Thum started Fonderie 47, which turned assault rifles from African war zones into jewelry and art, then co-founded Liberty United to do the same with U.S. guns.
Starting last year, Liberty United entered into partnerships with Philadelphia; Syracuse, N.Y., and Newburgh, N.Y. to take guns and ammunition. Thum said "tens of thousands" of dollars have been given to non-profit groups, but he couldn't give an exact figure.
An online company, Jewelry for a Cause, also turns illegal gun material into jewelry, with a portion of proceeds going to fund gun buy-back amnesty programs. (Editing by Eric Walsh)