Carolyn Rafaelian, the woman behind Alex & Ani, and Kendra Scott, who started her eponymous jewelry brand, made Forbes’ list of richest self-made women this year.
New York--Forbes has released its list of the richest self-made women in United States again, and this year’s list includes two women from the jewelry world.

Alex & Ani founder and CEO Carolyn Rafaelian is at No. 18 (with a net worth of $1 billion), while Kendra Scott, who started her eponymous brand in 2002, is listed at No. 36 (with a net worth of $500 million).

To compile the women’s net worth, Forbes said it valued private companies by talking to a variety of outside experts and comparing the companies with public competitors, and calculated the stakes in public companies using stock prices from April 28.

To be eligible for the list, women had to have “substantially made their own fortunes.”

In cases in which the women started businesses with, and still share with, their husbands, Forbes assigned them half of the combined wealth. For entertainers, the estimates are based on their net lifetime earnings. Real estate, art and other assets also were factored in where applicable.

The minimum net worth needed to make this year’s list was $260 million, an increase from $250 million in 2016.

Rafaelian was one of two billionaires added to the list in 2017 (the other was Eren Ozmen of aerospace and defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp.) and was even featured on the cover of the Forbes issue featuring the list. The magazine’s story on the “bangle billionaire,” as they refer to her, also briefly touches on Rhode Island’s costume jewelry manufacturing history because Alex & Ani is based in Cranston. 

Scott also was new to the list this year.
 20170518 Cover and jewelryAt left, Alex & Ani founder and CEO Carolyn Rafaelian was featured on the cover of Forbes’ June 13 issue to honor her addition on its list of the richest self-made women. Top right is an Alex and Ani bangle and bottom right is a pair of earrings from Kendra Scott.
What’s interesting about the inclusion of Rafaelian and Scott on the list is that their brands were built on affordably priced jewelry.

The popular Alex and Ani sells bangles ranging from about $32 to $38 at retail, and while Kendra Scott does use real gemstones in some cases and also has a line of fine jewelry, her brand was built on her collection priced around $150 and below (and the popularity of its create-your-own-piece feature).

Overall, the list’s top five is (mostly) full of surprises.

At No. 1 is Marian Ilitch, who founded Little Caesars Pizza with her husband, Mike. After his death in February, Ilitch is now the richest self-made woman in America with a net worth of $5.1 billion.

She’s followed by Diane Hendricks, co-founder and chairman of ABC Supply, one of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows in America ($4.9 billion); Judy Love, who opened and ran a chain of gas stations with her husband ($2.9 billion); Oprah Winfrey ($2.9 billion); and Doris Fisher, co-founder of fashion retailer Gap ($2.7 billion).

There are some others with ties to jewelry on the list, such as Meg Whitman, best known for growing eBay in her role as CEO, and designer Vera Wang, as well as some not-so-surprising celebrity entries like Madonna, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.

There are 60 women on the list with a combined net worth of $61.5 billion, Forbes said, noting that 27 percent came from the fashion and retail space, while 18 percent are in tech and 17 percent in media.

The full list can be found on

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