Amparo Vega’s handcuff-key ring is the perfect accessory to crime.
Created in silver and gold, it’s a unique piece of jewelry that can also unlock standard police handcuffs. For Vega, that’s OK. She’s a jewelry designer who also carries a badge, and for the last three years of her 23-year tenure on the Cleveland police force, she has been working on her Cuff N Stuff line of jewelry for law enforcement professionals.
“Because I am surrounded by [police] 24/7, I have the perfect access to my customer base,” says Vega, who has taught at the Cleveland Police Academy for the past 12 years. She says it was while demonstrating how to use handcuffs that the idea of having the key always at her fingertips crossed her mind.
Vega took the concept to six different Cleveland jewelers, but all of them told her a working handcuff key was too complicated, too expensive or too ugly. “That just made me more motivated to prove that it would work,” she recalls.
It took 10 tries, but Vega finally developed a working prototype — made from pieces of actual handcuff keys and ring bands — and found a Wickliffe jeweler willing to help her. She also enlisted fellow officer and business partner Meg Connelly to develop the site cuffnstuff.com, which offers the handcuff-key ring and police-related accessories from other jewelry makers, such as bullet and nightstick pendants.
The handcuff-key ring is available for purchase by civilians as a novelty item, but the Cuff N Stuff Web site warns that using the ring to unlock police handcuffs, which have a universal lock-and-key system, is illegal. Since most of Vega’s customers are fellow police officers, she isn’t worried about the key falling onto the wrong finger. But as a safety precaution, Vega requires all customers to enter personal information with their orders.
“I’m very careful about who I sell [the ring] to,” she says.