Jeweler Takes an Even Hand

Spectrum of 2008 Candidates Get Signature Pins

Posted September 28, 2007 at 5:57pm

For Ann Hand, jewelry making isn’t about partisanship. While her husband, Lloyd, has spent his life in politics, first as a political operative in the Carter administration and now as a lobbyist, Hand says when customers cross her stores’ threshold they enter politically “neutral territory” where fashion reigns supreme.

Hand has long been known to festoon some of Washington’s most stylish and powerful women with baubles, including Madeleine Albright, who wore Hand’s jewelry as she was sworn in as the first female secretary of State. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is another client, as are Representatives’ wives, such as Debbie Dingell.

She also is known for her own brand of politicking — producing campaign pins. And in the true spirit of bipartisan jewelry, Hand is introducing a pin for just about every 2008 presidential candidate.

“Last time around, of course, it was the battle between Bush and Kerry, so this time we thought we would try it in the primary,” Hand said.

The tradition of using presidential candidates’ last names along with the election year started in 1996, when Hand made “Clinton 1996” and “Bush 1996” pins out of brushed silver and lined with rhinestones. But Hand says the presidential pins phenomenon really caught on in 2000 and continued in 2004. Sales of the Bush and Kerry pins were neck-and-neck, with slightly more pins for President Bush selling.

“Most people don’t really make up their mind until the general election. That’s when the fervor gets out there for his or her candidate,” Hand said. [IMGCAP(1)]

So far, many of the candidates’ wives, including Elizabeth Edwards and Cindy McCain, as well as the campaigns of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have ordered their customized campaign pins. However, not all the designs have been big sellers, conceded Hand. For example, the store had produced a “Hagel 2008” pin when it looked like the Nebraska Republican Senator would be putting his hat in the race.

Hand, who has made her name producing costume and custom jewelry, also works with campaigns to modify the pins. In 2004, Hand did a special pin for Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), sans rhinestones. The campaign preferred a gold pin with brushed silver because it was easier to see on television.

Hand’s popularity can be traced back nearly 20 years, when she was hand-stringing beads out of a cottage on the Hands’ property. At the time, she did pieces for friends before branching out. Hand said most of her business comes from word of mouth. Her popularity outgrew the cottage in 2001, when she decided to open her first store on MacArthur Boulevard in Northwest D.C. In 2005, she opened a second store in Georgetown. She also has a large Internet clientele and sells pieces at select museums.

Among Hand’s most popular pieces are party pins with bedazzled elephants and donkeys.

Beth Viola, a lobbyist at Holland & Knight, says she bought about a dozen of Hand’s donkey pins for her friends to wear at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, when she was a surrogate for President Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign. After her Republican friends found out, she went to Hand and ordered a couple more to pacify her GOP friends.

But the best-seller over the past 20 years has been Hand’s American eagle pin, which she describes as a unifying force that stands for strength that politicians from both sides of the aisle prefer.

Besides the patriotic jewelry that are yearly favorites, Hand also does commissioned pieces, including the a pin for the Air Force Memorial Association, which plays off the three large spires of the monument in Arlington, Va. She also is producing the Miss America line.

With attention turning to the 2008 campaign, Hand says she hasn’t kept good track yet of which candidate’s pin is selling the most.

“I thought it would be fun to do a rhinestone poll,” Hand said. “We haven’t tracked it as closely as we should have … we will after the conventions.”