When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech last week, she set off an avalanche of vitriol (from Trumps fans) and celebration (from her liberal base). But little did she know that she also helped an 86-year-old Texas doyenne of the D.C. scene sell a big pile of jewelry.
As Pelosi ripped up Trump’s speech, some keen observers noticed a small detail in the made-for-TV moment: a formidable-looking, stiletto-shaped gold pin on her left lapel. The brooch is a miniature of the speaker’s mace, the official symbol of the House of Representatives, a ceremonial version of which stands on a pedestal to the speaker’s right when the House is in session.
The pin was made by a Texan—jewelry maker Ann Hand, the wife of LBJ confidant and Democratic party éminence grise Lloyd Hand, who came to Washington, D.C., in the sixties, one of the last of the contingent of LBJ-era Texans still in D.C.
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“I designed it when she was speaker the first time,” Hand told Texas Monthly from her store in the Georgetown area of D.C. She became enchanted by the mace, which is nearly four feet high and made of silver and ebony, during visits to the House chamber. With a woman as speaker, Hand thought a brooch would be a good fit for her bipartisan line of Americana jewelry. (Hand’s best-seller, popular with Republican women in particular, is an American eagle brooch.) But for some reason, the mace piece didn’t sell well when Pelosi was speaker from 2007 to 2011.
All that changed in December.
On December 18, Hand was watching the House vote to impeach Trump when she noticed that Pelosi was wearing the mace pin. “I was thrilled beyond words,” said Hand. “I was shocked.”
She was not the only one who noticed the brooch, which is three and a half inches long, made of gold and brass with an eagle at the top perched on a faux pearl. So did fashion writers, bloggers, and all sorts of social media users. That weekend, Kate-McKinnon-as-Nancy-Pelosi wore a mace pin on Saturday Night Live during the cold open.
“Immediately the watching public began to wonder,” wrote Vanessa Friedman, the New York Times’ chief fashion critic. “After all, it was impossible to miss, standing out not just against her suit, but amid the sea of little congressional buttons and American flags worn by Ms. Pelosi’s colleagues. … Clearly it was no mere decoration. Indeed not. It is her power pin.”
The pin that nobody wanted was suddenly a hot item—selling out in days. When Pelosi ripped up Trump’s speech last week, sales skyrocketed again. Today, Hand has a backlog of five hundred orders for the $125 pin.
“Now it’s become a historical pin,” said Hand. “And it always will be.” Asked what she thought of Pelosi’s speech-shredding, Hand, who knows the speaker but whose jewelry business is bipartisan, said, “I’d rather not comment. She must have had her reasons.”
Hand wasn’t sure how Pelosi got the pin, since she says she doesn’t try to push her products on lawmakers, but Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill has an explanation. “Her former colleagues gave it to her at the end of 2018” when she was poised to become speaker, Hammill said.
Hand, who grew up in Houston and has lived in Fort Worth and Austin, has a few pieces in her collection honoring her Texas roots. Her flashy Texas flag brooch sells particularly well, and she is excited about her latest (coming soon) Texas pin: a likeness of the “Goddess of Liberty” that sits atop the state Capitol. Lady Liberty is holding a five-point star against the backdrop of the Texas flag. The mace pin is a must-have for die-hard Pelosi fans, while the “Goddess of Liberty” will be for everyone.