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Carolyn Rafaelian’s new jewelry company Metal Alchemist partners with Cher to raise funds to restore historic Armenian cathedral

Rafaelian, who founded Alex and Ani, announced a partnership with Cher and California-based entrepreneur Eric Esrailian to help raise funds to restore the Etchmiadzin in Armenia

Brand manager for Metal Alchemist Mack Pholsina poses for photographer Jon Doucette (off camera) during a product shoot for the Carolyn Rafaelian’s new jewelry brand Metal Alchemist inside Belcourt of Newport.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — Metal Alchemist, the new jewelry brand by Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian, announced Thursday it was partnering with Cher to help raise funds to restore the Etchmiadzin in Armenia — which is often regarded by scholars as the oldest cathedral in the world.

Eric Esrailian, a California-based physician, film producer and entrepreneur, is the third partner on the Rhode Island-based company’s first charitable initiative. The jewelry line, dubbed “Alchemy for Armenia,” consists of “posy” wire bracelets engraved with the first word’s of the Lord’s Prayer “Our Father” in Armenian, “Հայր մեր.”

According to Rafaelian, 100 percent of the profits from the sale of the posy wire bracelets will be donated to the Armenian Apostolic Church for the restoration and preservation of Etchmiadzin and the Khor Virap Monastery and Church Complex. Depending on the metal, the bracelets range in cost from $28 to $128 each.

In a statement sent to the Globe on Thursday, Cher said preserving and restoring the Etchmiadzin Cathedral and Khor Virap will also “preserve the rich faith, history and culture” of Armenia.

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“It’s important that future generations are able to visit and appreciate this historic church,” said Cher. “My Armenian roots are a huge part of who I am, and I am thrilled to be a part of such a worthwhile cause.”

Businesswoman Kim Kardashian, who also has Armenian roots, posted about Metal Alchemist’s new line on her Instagram stories on Thursday.

Metal Alchemist's “Alchemy for Armenia" line consists of “posy” wire bracelets engraved with the first word’s of the Lord’s Prayer “Our Father” in Armenian. HANDOUT

“I’m always looking for ways to support Armenia and the most sacred, ancient places in the world,” said Kardashian in a recorded video on her Instagram story. “The oldest cathedral in the world is in Armenia, and it’s where I baptized my kids. It’s in desperate need of restoration so this brand Metal Alchemist is making these bracelets with 100 percent of the [profits] going toward the restoration of the cathedral.”

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Kardashian said Metal Alchemist sent her several pieces and that she’s been in conversations with the company’s the “whole team.” “I’m so proud of them,” said Kardashian.

When she started Alex and Ani in the early 2000s, Rafaelian would dedicate 20 percent of a bangle’s proceeds to an array of global nonprofits through her “Charity by Design” concept. While she was still with the company, Alex and Ani raised more than $70 million for various causes. However, since she left the company in 2020, Alex and Ani discontinued its large-scale charitable work.

Rafaelian officially launched Metal Alchemist on Nov. 4. Leading up the launch, Rafaelian told the Globe in a series of exclusive interviews that she was actively working on ways Metal Alchemist could give to various communities and charities, including this partnership. Rafaelian was born in Cranston, R.I., in 1966, but her grandfather escaped the Armenian genocide in 1913 and came to America with nothing but a suitcase.

“There are times in our lives that connect us so deeply to something much bigger than ourselves,” said Rafaelian. “This is one of those moments for me — to be a part of this restoration and preservation of two of the holiest places on earth.”

The Etchmiadzin cathedral, which dates back to 303 A.D., was constructed near Mount Ararat and is considered to be the birthplace of Christianity in Armenia. In 2001, the cathedral was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remains one of the most visited sites in the country.

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“My faith is particularly important to me, and Armenians have relied on the Armenian Apostolic Church for centuries,” said Esrailian in a statement. “Giving back to the community has always been a priority for me, and I am so grateful to join my dear friends Carolyn and Cher in the effort to protect these holy sites.”

Carolyn Rafaelian, the founder of Metal Alchemist, photographed at her home in Rhode Island.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

The patron saint of the church, St. Gregory the “Illuminator” formally established the Armenian Apostolic Church, converting Armenia from paganism to Christianity. Prior to establishing the church, he was imprisoned at Khor Virap for at least 12 years. He was eventually let out and Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity in the early fourth century.

However, the cathedral is now at a critical point and in need of preservation, said Rafaelian. In addition to Thursday’s announcement, Metal Alchemist is also launching an ongoing initiative to support the Armenian community indefinitely through Alchemy for Armenia called Bonded to Benefit: Project Armenia.

The initiative features bonded silver and “trialchemy” cuffs and rings that are engraved with Mount Ararat. The jewelry range in price starting at $58 and increasing to $498, and 20 percent of the profits will also go toward the restoration and preservation of Etchmiadzin and Khor Virap. Continued donations will be made thereafter in addition to Armenian nonprofit organizations, said Rafaelian.

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Metal Alchemist’s name is a nod to the process used to create the materials featured in the new lines of jewelry: gold, sterling silver, and copper, all layered and bonded together.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.