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Bangle Billionaire: How Alex And Ani Founder Carolyn Rafaelian Built An American Jewelry Empire

Clare O’Connor

When Alex and Ani founder and CEO Carolyn Rafaelian walks into a room, you hear her before you see her. On the day she first meets Forbes, she clinks and jangles her way into her office under layers of bracelets, necklaces, cuffs and rings in both precious metals and coated brass, 12 of which she designed herself.

The biggest noise emanates from her celestial-chic jewelry brand’s bestselling products: charm bangles, of which it has released thousands of iterations, to commemorate lifetime milestones or show off zodiac signs, sports team allegiances, favorite charities and religious totems. Peace, love and big bucks, since these stackable bangles, made from recycled scrap metal, cost customers about $33 apiece — and Rafaelian is moving over 10 million a year.

“It’s not the money that’s the driving force behind this,” Rafaelian says in her Rhode Island accent, which rhymes “force” with “boss,” unable to distract from the math that belies that claim.

From its headquarters in unassuming Cranston, Rhode Island, Alex and Ani’s revenues have skyrocketed from $5 million in 2010 to over $500 million in 2016, insiders say, with a net profit margin, according to private equity database Pitchbook, that was recently 23 percent.

Rafaelian ranks no. 18 on Forbes' list of America's Richest Self-Made Women.

Rafaelian says she believes each piece is imbued with energy that can have a positive effect on its wearer (she has a priest and a shaman bless her inventory), but her markups on 7.5 inches of contorted wire show her to be a master marketer.


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