Carolyn Rafaelian started her stellar jewelry business, Alex and Ani, eleven years ago in Cranston, Rhode Island—still the location of the brand’s headquarters and factories. OF course, everyone would claim that their products are made with passion, but the Alex and Ani brand conveys this quality with a conviction that feels as spiritual as its jewelry is beautiful. “It’s all about who you are,” says Carolyn, “and less about trends. It’s timeless and designed to last.”
The first product—a simple expandable wire bangle ADORNED WITH A CHARM (still a best-seller)—epitomized the ALEX AND ANI ethos of smart, gorgeous designs that suit a range of budgets. “I love the fact that women come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s what I had in mind when I created the bangles,” she says. Customers can choose a sassy single bangle sparkling with crystals, colorful beads and stones, or gather an entire collection based on themes—anything from birthstones to professional sports teams to spiritual words, and more choices besides.
Fast-forward to today, and ALEX AND ANI has long since exceeded its humble beginnings, with a cult following of customers aged eight to eighty and an ever-growing collection that includes rings, necklaces, earrings and leather goods. The company prides itself on being one of the last jewelry manufacturers in the United States that makes their products in the US; each piece is made from recycled materials procured from mills and factories all over the States. “The eco-friendly concept, along with the products being made in the USA, go hand-in-hand with the designs,” says Carolyn.
An undeniable success story, yet it all came about by default, rather than deliberately. Carolyn’s father opened Cinerama Jewelry in Providence in 1966, and her early summers were spent working with him—as a punishment for bad behavior! “Ironically, I had no choice but to help out. But it led to me feeling inspired enough to design my own pieces. Without the foundation he gave me I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would ALEX AND ANI be the brand that it is today.” Family is clearly still key to the company’s success, and Carolyn works alongside her sister Rebecca, as well as her niece Rachel, who is a member of the design team. “They all have different strengths, which balances out the work environment. I’m inspired by my family, and I want to leave a legacy for my amazing daughters Alex, Ani and Alivia.”
Carolyn partnered up with Swarovski to create unique, exclusive crystals for the ALEX AND ANI Crystal Infusion Collection. “The crystals were created especially for us and are infused with light and luminosity. I knew that I wanted the cut to be similar to what you’d find in nature, but it wasn’t until we met with the Swarovski team that my dream was finally realized: the cut and size are designed to emphasize their most natural and powerful form.”
Speaking of powerful, Rafaelian collaborates with and empowers more than 135 nonprofit businesses and has raised more than 30 million dollars though the sale of signature bangles as part of the brand’s CHARITY BY DESIGN® collection—a clear statement of her values: “I truly believe that what you give to the universe you get back. To have built a company on the foundation of ‘giving back’ is one of my greatest achievements.” Indeed. It seems that good karma has deservedly brought cult status to a very special jewelry brand.