Carolyn Rafaelian is a native Rhode Islander, and she’s all about staying connected to her roots. That’s why her internationally recognized jewelry company, Alex and Ani, is still operated from Cranston. Despite advice to relocate to larger cities, Rafaelian is adamant about keeping her company close to her heart, and to her home.
Rafaelian has had a lifelong passion for jewelry, and she says she drew inspiration at a young age from her father, who was also in the jewelry business.
“I’ve been intrigued by jewelry and its individual meaning to the wearer for as long as I can remember,” said Rafaelian. “Growing up in my father’s factory led me to this passion, this fate of creating meaningful jewelry.”
Her father’s company was Cinerama Jewelry, which Rafaelian called “an amazing legacy.” Her line, named after her first two daughters Alex and Ani, sprung from the family tradition of jewelry making.
“I was destined to create Alex and Ani,” she said.
Alex and Ani’s most popular products are their bangle bracelets, which feature large, medallion-like charms. Rafaelian’s designs have been featured in magazines like Vogue, Glamour and People, and have been donned by celebrities around the globe.
Rafaelian said that the bracelets, which are often very simple metal bangles featuring a stamped medallion, focus on the unique qualities of the wearer.
“Alex and Ani focuses on empowerment, individuality and eco-consciousness. Our jewelry is a vehicle used to express the influential message of positive energy. The concept of building a personalized set that holds powerful meaning is unique along with the expandable design, the deep connection to eco-awareness and our consistent tradition of making everything in America. The designs are popular because the pieces inspire the wearer, enlighten the spirit and ultimately signify something of importance to the individual. Words are powerful, symbols are powerful and the wearer can experience this heightened sense of inspiration.”
Alex and Ani also focuses on giving back to the community, and has several “charitable designs” whose proceeds go toward the charities they represent. They have designed bracelets that benefit young women with breast cancer, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, Operation Smile and the African Rainforest, among others.
“Every moment of every day at Alex and Ani brings on new excitement, new challenges and new milestones,” said Nicki Castonguay, vice president of Charity by Design. “ I’ve had a chance love affair with the non-profit world and I must say, I am officially smitten. The combination of giving back with Alex and Ani’s positive energy message are simply contagious and more powerful than the brand itself.”
“As Alex and Ani’s marketing director, I feel honored that part of my job is to increase awareness of our brand and spread our message of positive energy,” said Iris Carlomusto. “Each day I am rewarded knowing Alex and Ani has positively changed someone’s life.”
In addition to the design side of the company, Rafaelian is passionate about job creation and manufacturing in America. With the help of CEO Giovanni Feroce, the team has rapidly expanded the company, while sticking to their “Made in America with love” promise – the phrase is stamped on all of their products.
“Alex and Ani is dedicated to bringing jobs back to an industry that Rhode Island was once renowned for,” said Feroce. “The company has made a significant impact on the local economy, bringing renewed optimism to Rhode Island manufacturers. In the last 14 months we made 84 new hires and the numbers for the next year promise to shatter that record.”
Feroce said that he is always on the lookout for people who are passionate and hardworking.
“I have the honor of working side by side with the hardest working group of individuals,” said Madison Malloy, human resource manager. “I would put our team against anyone’s.”
This year, Inc. Magazine recognized the company’s success and growth by ranking Alex and Ani as 470 on their Inc. 5,000 list, which recognizes growing small businesses. They jumped nearly 800 spots since last year’s ranking of 1,247.
Feroce said the key to operating a growing business in Rhode Island is to continue to think big, despite the small size of the state.
“We push the envelope,” he said. “We take chances and we aren’t afraid to stand up for what we believe in. We believe in Rhode Island and we believe in America, which resonates with people. We will continue to grow and expand outside of Rhode Island, but our roots are here and that will never change.”
Alex and Ani’s world headquarters will soon be opening in Cranston’s Chapel View shopping plaza, along with their fourth retail store. They will also be opening a SoHo location in Manhattan, where an Alex and Ani showroom already exists.
For Rafaelian, Rhode Island will always be the “Jewelry Capital of the World” and she hopes to restore that prestige to the Ocean State.
“I am dedicated to bringing that title back and determined to enforce the quality standard of being made in America,” she said. “Plus, it’s home.”