Antonelli Diamonds is a purpose-driven brand with a philanthropic focus on helping cancer victims, especially children. Founded by Casey Antonelli, the brand has been conducting private sales for some time, and this week has launched an e-commerce site.
Here, Antonelli shares insights about the company’s mission, what was behind its founding and the organizations the company supports.
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WWD: What was the impetus behind launching Antonelli Diamonds?
Casey Antonelli: It all started with a bike ride. I was 16 years old when I first signed up for the Pan-Mass Challenge, a cycling event that raises money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. My parents bought me a Cannondale, Tiffany blue, of course, and we trained all summer long. I didn’t love it, but I kept getting on the bike and pushing the pedals. Something deep down made me follow through with the commitment.
A few hours into the 192-mile journey, we took a right turn on Cherry Street. Adorned with balloons, signs, music and bubbles — this place had a magical feeling. I was enjoying the celebration and people cheering when I saw a young boy holding a sign “I’m five and alive thanks to you.” I went numb. This ride was not about me, not in the slightest. Eighteen years and 18 PMCs later, I still carry this with me. That little boy was the first of many who would take my breath away and keep me pushing the pedals at the same time.
I started Antonelli Diamonds as a tribute to the cancer warriors that have impacted my life and the lives of people close to me. All of our ready-to-wear pieces are named for these warriors, and we donate a percentage of all profits to charities that not only propel forward a cure for cancer, but take care of the warriors who battle it every day.
WWD: When you say “doing good is in our DNA,” you mean the company’s purpose-driven mission is at the core of your business? Can you explain?
C.A.: We’re a purpose-driven brand founded on the belief that buying diamonds can be both luxurious and philanthropic. Doing good is our main driver and core value that resonates through everything we do. Our products are ethical and high quality, our prices are fair and we give a percentage of all profits to charity. For me, this is really an extension of who I am.
Further, this is a family business — my husband Nick Antonelli is a partner and leads our private sales. Our angel investor comes from a family that has been a private jeweler for 45 years. They do right by their customers, offering quality diamonds, reasonable prices and superior service. They have run the business exclusively on inbound referrals, which tells you a lot about the value of doing good. He always says “do the right thing” and as such is the ideal partner in this philanthropic venture.
WWD: Can you tell us about the collection?
C.A.: The very first pieces we sold were for a PMC fundraiser in 2012. We curated a collection of sterling silver jewelry and hosted a party at my parent’s home. We raised a whopping $854. Regardless, I loved the entire process and decided that I wanted to have a career in fashion. A few years later, I took a job leading communications for a retail technology start-up, NewStore. Over the next several years, I had the pleasure of working with some incredible global brands like Anine Bing, Burton Snowboards, Ganni, Marine Layer, Outdoor Voices and Untuckit.
Today, we offer a collection of gold, platinum and diamond jewelry. Our business is a blend of engagement rings, wedding rings and ready-to-wear fine jewelry. One of our bestselling pieces, The Cathy Diamond Hoop Earrings, is named for my mom’s best friend and business partner, Cathy McGrath. She turned her brutal battle with breast cancer into a nonprofit that has helped tens of thousands of cancer patients. While in the hospital recovering from a double mastectomy, she wrote the business plan for “A Little Easier Recovery.” Her mission was to make it “a little easier” for the next person that must endure cancer treatment and recovery. She invented “The Jacki,” which discreetly holds drains, allows one-handed dressing, reduces pain and restores dignity and independence to cancer patients.
Another bestselling piece, The Ryan Interlocking Hearts Necklace, is named for a boy I was connected to through the PMC. Ryan bravely battled neuroblastoma for nearly eight years before passing away at the age of 12. Always wanting to help cure cancer, he twice emptied his piggy bank and donated the money to pediatric cancer charities.
WWD: What are the charities that are supported?
C.A.: We donate to organizations that support research, clinical trials, patient care and anything else that comes along with a cancer diagnosis. We’re launching with these five and plan to expand the list as we reach various sales milestones:
Beat Childhood Cancer: This organization drives childhood cancer research and raises awareness, making a difference in kids’ survival today. Their vision is to change the story for the next family by finding viable treatments and ultimately, cures for childhood cancers.
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Recommended to us by Ryan’s family and another one of our pediatric cancer warriors Caroline, this charity funds early research that has the strongest science behind it and the best chance of getting from a research lab to a child’s bedside in the shortest time frame possible.
Runway for Recovery: My cousin Kristin, a cancer survivor, is on the board of directors for this charity that honors and supports families affected by breast cancer. They dedicate resources to support children who have lost caregivers to the disease, offering a sense of community for families and survivors to inspire joy in the midst of a seemingly hopeless time.
Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation: This organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life for brain tumor patients and their families. They fund research for the treatment and cure of the condition, as well as organize support group meetings to give patients, families and caregivers access to information and resources to navigate the brain tumor journey.
Pan-Massachusetts Challenge/Dana Farber Cancer Institute: Antonelli Diamonds wouldn’t exist without the PMC, a Massachusetts-based bike-a-thon that raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. One-hundred percent of every dollar raised by PMC riders goes to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a world leader in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research and an exemplary teaching and research facility.
WWD: What is your distribution strategy? Online d-to-c and private sales? Do you expect this to evolve over time?
C.A.: Our distribution strategy at launch has been largely influenced by my time at NewStore. The company’s founder, the “Godfather of E-commerce” Stephan Schambach, invented the online shopping cart and put e-commerce systems in the cloud, in addition to his work at NewStore creating the first Omnichannel-as-a-Service platform that allows brands to run their retail stores on iPhone. I learned a lot from him about brands, e-commerce and the power of d-to-c.
Our e-commerce website launches today. We plan to keep our showroom for private sales, as well as open d-to-c stores in the next five years.