The Language of Pins: Stories behind Madeleine Albright’s Collection

Legion of honor pin owned by Madeleine Albright

I was going to post this earlier but the politics got so ugly I wanted to wait until the dust settled. With the inauguration this week a question I have is what jewelry will the first lady and the daughters of the President wear? I’m sure that and so much more will be analyzed over the next four years. Some of those small choices are not given much thought but for one former White House employee there was a distinct correlation between her pin choice and her mood.

Bejeweled Mickey pin owned by Madeleine Albright, made 1989, Disney

I posted on Instagram art from the all-night event at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few months ago. I was unable to attend the special evening events but Madeleine Albright spoke to a group of museum attendees. Some Instagram attendees shared selfies with the former Secretary of State , I’m not posting those but will share a photo of the pin Albright was wearing. I had seen it in a book I read a few years back, Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box by Madeleine Albright. The pin is titled Breaking the Glass Ceiling, by an unknown artist.

Albright had a second pin on with the candidate she is supporting. I won’t mention that either since it only takes one guess knowing which president she served under. So, no more election talk on to the jewels.

The book is a fun read about a collector that happened to serve in a high government office but Ms. Albright’s history of collecting did not start when she got the job of secretary of state, but earlier at age 8. She was the daughter of an ambassador to Yugoslavia on a visit Madeleine’s mother was given an emerald ring surrounded by diamonds. That memory stayed with Madeleine and when she was old enough she was given that ring. The love of pins came from her college days when it was fashionable to wear pins with sweaters. Also in college, the tradition of getting pinned by your boyfriend was to be engaged. Madeleine was pinned by Joseph Albright, they had 3 children. Madeleine was still gifted pins by friends and relatives. Some antique and a few homemade. Below is a pin of beads on safety pin, common at craft fairs and similar to the one owned by Ms. Albright.

 

She had high end brooches as well like these two from Cartier.

Panther pin, Cartier owned by Madeleine Albright

 

Coral, Lapis Bird in Cage, Cartier made in 1944

How did her trademark pin wearing get started? The story is shared by Albright and starts with a snake. See below.

The Serpent’s Tale

The book goes through some of Albright’s family moments where she worn and acquired her pins but I am skipping ahead to her days in Washington where her collection got a lot more attention.

 

The major start to kicking off her jewelry collection in the White House was during Bill Clinton’s first term as President of the United States (1993-1997).  To set the scene, Ambassador Albright was coming in after the first Persian Gulf War and Iraq was required to accept the UN inspections and disclose about all their weapons programs. Saddam Hussein, the Iraq leader at the time, would not comply causing Albright to publicly criticize him. A poem was printed by the Iraq press in retaliation to Albrights behavior. I won’t reprint the poem but use the phrase that caused the start of her pin phase. In the poem the poet referred to Ambassador Albright as an ‘unparalleled serpent’, among other unflattering things. So when Iraq officials were scheduled to meet with her again she need to find the right item to make a statement. This coiled snake pin by an unknown designer was bought a few years back. The reason was unknown to Albright who mentioned in the book to ‘loathe’ snakes. It was perfect though and the press loved it. Albright was sending a message in her own way to the world. This soon became her trademark and still continues to this day.

Albright wearing serpent pin with her ‘don’t mess with me’ face!

Albright has many more pins and stories in this book that could be finished in an evening. A few more from her collection.

Bug Pin by Iradj Moini

 

Lady Liberty clock pin by Gijis Bakker of the Netherlands

Are there any pins you wear to work or wear on your coat for going out? I brought some that belonged to my grandmother that can take a commute to work or errands on the weekend! Thank you for reading and check back for more!

Top hat Eagle pin, 1940 by Trifari

 

Joan and her Jewelry

Joan Rivers style was best described by her daughter Melissa as a ‘maximalist, more is more’.  My memories of Joan Rivers, the celebrity were her larger than life style choices, her choice words and her fashion! Joan was doing standup, working on Fashion Police, publishing books, winning on the Apprentice…the list can go on.

Joan_celebrity_photos

This is only the one side of Joan that she showed to the world. She had another as a mother and grandmother. So when she passed away about 2 years ago, her daughter, Melissa, took the time to go over the estate and share her memories of her mother through the collection shown at Christie’s Auction House in New York City. The auction of her more expensive pieces is tomorrow but an online auction is going on now until the 23rd of June. I got to see a few pieces from her collection when visiting Christie’s a few weeks ago.

After getting a glimpse into her tastes and interests I found that even though her fashion style was not really my taste much of her jewelry was. I will highlight 3 designers from her New York auction and then look at her online jewels.

In March a small sample of her items were displayed to announce the upcoming auction in the summer at Christie’s. I glanced at some of her furniture and knick knacks and came across these beauties by none other than one of my favorite designers ever, Faberge!

Faberge

faberge_jewelry

The Star Sapphire pendant and Chalcedony brooch in the center were the pieces I saw in person, my photos were not too good, but the Christie’s photos show some of the detail. A fun fact about Joan she was a Faberge collector! To Joan, Faberge is what came to mind when you thought about the ultimate luxury. Joan and her family were of Russian descent so it is not surprising for that to be an aspirational brand to own. Another set of Faberge pieces I loved seeing were the picture frames.

faberge_photos

The frame to the left is of Joan and Melissa, the man in the center frame, any guesses? That is Vincent Price (Melissa’s godfather) and the woman is her godmother a Hollywood star that I did not find the name of. These photos are what was actually in the frames that Joan used. Why not? The history is an aspect Joan loved as well as the beauty. Christie’s found a record of the lavender pillbox below belonging to Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, mother to Nicholas II the last Czar of Russia. Grandmother to Princess Anastasia for those that are familiar with the animated movie starring the voice of Meg Ryan.

faberge_objects

The Lily of the Valley bowl to the left is the highlight of the Faberge collection in the exhibit. This rare carved nephrite stone designed with rose gold, pearls and diamonds is estimated to sell between $200,000-$300,000.

For more articles that I have written on Faberge click here.

 

Iradj Moini

Another designer Joan often wore was Iradj Moini. He is a fashion jewelry designer based in New York who has been in business since 1989. He had previously worked for Oscar De La Renta. His work was featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2006 for Iris Apfel’s exhibit. I had not heard of him but Joan seemed to enjoy his work.

IM_jewelryOne of the photos above shows Joan wearing the red beaded necklace on the far right.

 

Cezua

I saw this necklace in the exhibit and had to know more…

Cezua_pearl_necklace_live

This is a massive necklace all made with freshwater pearls. The center gem is a large amethyst surrounded by blue and orange topazes with diamonds. The designer Cesar Lim (Cezua was his nickname as a kid) graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. He started out in fashion design working at houses such as Anne Klein then transitioned into jewelry. He opened his first gallery in Beverly Hills, CA in 2009. That necklace is estimated to go between $3,000-$5,000.

Click here to go to Christie’s to see more of her private collection.

Online Auction

For those wanting a different style and a lower price point then check out Joan’s online auction. I was surprised again at her variety, online had more art nouveau, antique jewelry and chunky beaded necklaces.

See below for the antique and art nouveau pieces I found stunning.

Art_brooches

These brooches range from high estimates of $1,500 to $6,000. The price is high but the quality and uniqueness is where the value in these pieces would be for me.  Also the proceeds will go to charities Joan was involved with. To see more click here to be directed to her online auction. So go over to Christie’s and take a look at these treasures! Below are photos from the small exhibit I saw of her items. Please let me know your thoughts on this collection or Joan! Don’t hold back, you know Joan wouldn’t!

Joan_exhibit