Politically Minded Jewelry Designer Ann Hand
by kelly dinardo
photography by greg powers
Ann Hand, relaxing in her salon on MacArthur Boulevard
|The official 2009 inaugural pin, commissioned by the Inaugural Committee...|
|... and Hand’s Joint Forces pin|
|A pin commissioned for former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski by his wife, Nancy|
When it comes to reading political tea leaves, most pundits turn to polls, not rhinestones. With Ann Hand’s record, that may very well change.
For the past four elections, Hand, one of Washington’s most prominent jewelers, has created rhinestone pins with each of the candidates’ names on them and the election year—for example, McCain 2008 and Obama 2008—and then watched as the sales accurately predicted who would win the election. In November she kicked off the fifth rhinestone pin poll with a collection that includes all the candidates. “We got a later start this year because we were waiting to see if [Sarah] Palin and [Chris] Christie would enter the race,” says Hand, who acknowledges the poll is completely unscientific.
How It All Began
Bedazzling politics comes naturally to Hand, who got her start in jewelry through both a happy accident and a sudden tragedy. On a women’s retreat in Florida, Hand met a woman who showed her how to do bead stringing. She enjoyed it as a hobby, but after Hand lost her youngest son, Tommy, in a car accident, she found that stringing beads was the distraction she needed to pull herself out of the grief.
“I had to do something so I wouldn’t go mad,” says Hand, who first came to DC from Texas in 1958 with her husband, Lloyd, who was offered a position as the assistant to Lyndon B. Johnson, then the Majority Leader of the Senate. “I was just trying to keep my mind off of things.”
Hand found she had a knack for it, eventually expanding her repertoire to include custom, American-produced designs. Her first piece was a request from Colleen Nunn, the wife of Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. The Statue of Freedom had been removed from the top of the Capitol Building for restoration, and Nunn was working on the celebration surrounding its return. Asked to design a commemorative piece for the event, Hand created the Freedom pin, depicting the statue’s titular heroine, that was given to the members of Congress and other dignitaries. Hand’s next piece was the Liberty Eagle pin, a gold eagle with a faux pearl in its talons that she sent to Pamela Harriman as a gift. When Harriman wore the brooch to her swearing in as US Ambassador to France, Hand’s bejeweled take on politics took off among the shake-hands-and-kiss-babies set.
The general public, however, was less interested in patriotic baubles—that is, until 9/11. “People came in sobbing, wanting an American flag,” says Hand. The national tragedy also resulted in Hand’s first refusal. “I had a gentleman come in and ask for an eagle with a bomb in its claws,” she says. “I told him we don’t do bombs.”
Hand also does not do partisan politics, designing commissioned pieces for Democrats and Republicans alike. Her brooches have brightened the power suits of everyone from President Clinton to former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright and former First Lady Laura Bush.
As Hand says, “What we do is tell America’s story in metal. Whether it is a symbol of the arts or of the military, for Democrats or Republicans, it is our story in silver and gold.” 4885 MacArthur Blvd., 202- 333-2979
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.