Alex and Ani: An Armenian Jewel

We’re living in an Alex and Ani world.

No matter where you may go, there seems to be a vision of their business genius before your very eyes.  Americans tend to gloat over their jewelry products.  Armenians explode with pride over their accomplishments, pointing to a strong ethnic backbone.

Carolyn Rafaelian is among America’s richest self-made women.
Carolyn Rafaelian is among America’s richest self-made women.


Cross over the Zakim Bridge in Boston by the TD Center and there’s a sign.  Go inside for a Celtics or Bruins game and you’ll see another reminder in its prominent place.

Take your place at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game and there it is again.  Batters who are being filmed at the plate will also share the screen with Alex and Ani.

I’m inclined to believe that some of the most prominent athletes who visit Boston may come to terms with this conglomerate.  Either they’ll join the thousands who make a purchase every year or else be reminded of it the next time they come.

During a recent treatment at Dana Farber Institute in Boston, right there in the cafeteria were tables replete with Alex and Ani products.  If you could make your way past the crowd, you would be able to peruse the merchandise for sale.

Or else, wait your turn.  There were nurses, doctors, patients being treated with cancer, and even men looking for an item to give a loved one.

My own church has an Alex and Ani table during its October fair with a portion of the proceeds going our way.  We make sure they own a prominent spot and people do make sales.  The teenagers especially adore their products, including my 14-year-old granddaughter.

She wears the pieces to school and could take orders.  I could buy her an outfit, but give her Alex and Ani and it becomes sheer bliss.

As a conscientious Armenian, this is the greatest success story of my generation.  And maybe yours as well.  An e-mail came my way with a photo carrying the headline, “Carolyn Rafaelian joins Forbes’ list of richest self-made women.” It was posted June 10.

The story goes on to say that Carolyn Rafaelian founded this fashion jewelry company in 2004 taking over what had been her father’s Rhode Island jewelry factory to manufacture the new age, celestial-chic bangles that have become the brand’s staple.

To say growth has been explosive would be an understatement.  In 2010, Alex and Ani—named after two of Rafaelian’s daughters—did an estimated $4.5 million in revenues.

By 2015, sales had hit $500 million, catapulting the 49-year-old CEO/founder onto Forbes second annual list of America’s richest self-made women, thanks to her major ownership.

Rafaelian joins the ranks at number 22 with an estimated net worth of $700 million, making her the second richest newcomer to the list after Gail Miller, billionaire owner of basketball’s Utah Jazz.

She’s the richest self-made woman in the nation to derive her wealth from jewelry and joins an impressive group of fashion and retail moguls on Forbes’ ranking that includes Spanx founder Sara Blakely, preppie-chic designer Tory Burch, and bridal tycoon Vera Wang.

What Armenian would not want to applaud another successful Armenian? It’s a story that makes you want to stand up and cheer—one that would inspire another to reap the dividends in this great land of opportunity.

Described as an innovative thinker, spiritual enthusiast, and person of integrity, Rafaelian is undeniably making her mark by building a company with a conscience.

For most of us, we knew Alex and Ani was a success story but never imagined such wealth.  It’s never flaunted and has remained subtle in demeanor. Much has been done on the charity side, too.

The company did fashion a Camp Haiastan bracelet which wound up as a sellout.  All proceeds were donated to the Franklin, Mass., camp for the welfare of our children.

Long-time camp affiliates recall the number of golden deeds performed by Rafaelian through the years, ever since her childhood days. Simply put, she has not forgotten her Armenian roots.

Empowering consumers to enter the charitable world through their purchases, a portion of proceeds from all “Charity by Design” products are donated directly to non-profit organizations.

To date, that amount has reached more than $30 million in an attempt to enhance the quality of life everywhere. The company operates in 10 countries and 11 Caribbean islands.

This week, Alex and Ani committed to raising $2 million globally over the next two years to help UNICEF give children around the world brighter futures. The money will be used to aid children in the aftermath of an emergency or during conflict.

“We share the commitment to build a better future for our children by providing the tools needed to overcome hardships and promote peace,” said Rafaelian.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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  1. Congratulations, to Carolyn Rafaelian and her company for taking care of those who don’t have anything and are in need of so much. I give Carolyn Rafaelian credit for being an ARMENIAN and always remembering her roots. I’m glad to see this good coming from an Armenian instead of what we see on television regarding the Kardashians. They have made a bad name for the ARMENIAN people.
    Great Article keep them coming.

  2. Conscious Capitalism is a fashion statement of the highest order. Thank you, Carolyn. You’re inspiring and gorgeous. And as an Armenian, I’m proud and delighted to wear Alex and Ani.

  3. I love the simplicity style of your bracelets and the symbols of life that dangle from the wire…the variety of the symbols allow the wearer to tell a story of about their life…my choices remind me of certain events or persons who have contributed to the person that I have become… thanks for keeping it simple but memorable…????

  4. Truly wonderful to read about you, Carolyn, and your successful business. My husband and I toured Armenia and Karabagh with the Armenian Assembly of America in 1999. Your parents were also on that tour and we enjoyed their company. What a small world – and now to read about your successes makes us PROUD. Sam & Annette Apelian – Studio City, CA

  5. God bless you , wish you even more success , if only your father ( Ralph ) would have seen it .
    To be on the Forbes list , whow !!!! I am also happy that you d’ ont forget camp Hayasdan …. The beautiful time we ad there with the family … You helping your people makes me very happy…
    I like your store in palm beach , and boca ration .

  6. my gold toned bracelets look tarnished and I don’t wear them anymore because of that I went to the store where I bought them and they sold me a polishing cloth. It didn’t work . what can I do to restore the original color? I love my bracelets and would love to wear them again thank you

  7. Carolyn, you are an inspiration to women, especially Armenian women, everywhere. You have an beautiful product, and I am happy to say I have several of your pieces. I am so happy that you have never forgotten your roots, and as a camper at Camp Hayastan years ago, that was an amazing gift you gave to the children, Our Future. Best of luck and keep up your wonderful work.

  8. Great story of success and compassion for others. But why are there no photo examples of her jewelry. I’m not familiar with the company and would love to see some items.

  9. Armenian craftsmanship with gold and jewels is a wonderful artistic achievement and a fine attribute of the cultural heritage; having said that, I long ago understood that when a person shows a humble exterior, it very well can lead into sacredness of the soul that presents itself so simply. For me, my mother, Ruby Sanoian Kueffer, was that person; she was clothed in simplicity, with jewels made from glass beads, but hidden in her heart, within the depths of her soul, she was truly a Holy Woman (or a Saint).

    My mother had a smile, a laughter, a solemness, a voice, and a sparkle in her Armenian Eyes, that were visual landmarks from the glow of her holiness and compassion. The Priest, from Saint John Armenian Church, in San Francisco, blest her with the last rites, and she died in her bedroom, at the break of dawn, the next morning. She is the bridge way to my Armenian Heritage, and she would have given her own blood to keep me alive (if the circumstances should ever have demanded it).

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