DC jeweler Ann Hand has created pieces to commemorate presidential inaugurations since the first Clinton administration. Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright were both photographed wearing a brooch she designed for that event–a faux gold and pearl eagle pin, which became Hand’s signature piece.
“I didn’t really expect that to happen,” Hand says about her inaugural business in a phone call from her Georgetown office sandwiched between interviews with Italian and Texas TV stations, plus an onslaught of customers. “I was interested in doing it and just continued on.”
Like many retailers, she started planning two years ago for a Hillary Clinton victory, but she says that two weeks before the election she realized Donald Trump might be on a winning streak and scrambled to come up with new memorabilia. Trump bangle bracelets and necklaces, carved picture frames and solid brass cufflinks emblazoned with the numerals “45″ (a hot seller at $150 a pair) arrived just in time for his upcoming inauguration.
But the moment those items hit her website the blowback was swift and stunning, Hand says. Some people were furious she had designed items for Trump. Others questioned her patriotism. One person called her “shameless” and said she’d do anything for a dollar. Another individual wrote threatening a boycott. And some former clients announced they were destroying all of the many baubles they had purchased over the years. Many of the emails are “horrible and disgusting,” Hand says. They’re still arriving.
“I was totally unprepared for this,” says Hand of the reaction. “Although there were many people who didn’t like George W. Bush and Obama I never got a single nasty word. These people are all very upset and bitter and it all comes out.”
Hand came to Washington in 1965 when her husband Lloyd was appointed chief of protocol to President Johnson and began her career as a form of therapy after her son was killed in an auto accident. “I was stringing beads. When you are working with your hands you cannot think anything else,” she says.
Her first commission was to design a brooch commemorating the reinstatement of the Freedom statue on the dome of the US Capitol in 1993. Since then the business has mushroomed from a small one-person cottage in her Palisades backyard, to a 100-year-old Georgetown townhouse where the walls are crammed with autographed photos of celebrities, politicians, and other notables sporting her designs.
Hand’s shop will be closed on Friday, but she says she’s prepared for any last-minute rush that comes on Thursday. Trump paraphernalia is selling well, almost as well as Obama in 2008. She is reluctant to predict whose jewelry will prove to be more popular when the dust settles, but Hand believes Trump sales may be off the charts.