While many critics took careful note of the fact that the American Olympic team was clothed in uniforms made in China (Really? What were they thinking?), one small jeweler in Rhode Island (a state known for their long history of costume jewelry making) created bangle bracelets that were an instant hit.
Cranston-based Alex and Ani was selected by the US Olympic Committee to produce the charms for the 2012 London Games. It’s the latest sign of success for the company, which has gone from a small manufacturing operation with 15 employees and a store in Newport to an economic dynamo with 16 stores across the country. It’s a rare economic success story in a state with an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent, second-highest in the nation.
‘‘You can do business in the state of Rhode Island,’’ said owner and designer Carolyn Rafaelian. ‘‘You can thrive in the state of Rhode Island. You can make things here. It’s about love, about helping your community. I couldn’t say those things and make my stuff in China.’’
Alex and Ani makes colorful charms, beaded bangles, and other jewelry, mostly priced at less than $50. Many feature symbols from the zodiac, gods from Greek mythology, or the logos from Major League Baseball teams. The products are manufactured in Rhode Island using recycled materials.
The Olympic charm has proved to be a hit, with silver medalist swimmer Elizabeth Beisel, herself a Rhode Islander, tweeting that she was ‘‘more than excited for the Alex and Ani charm’’ she found in her uniform bag.