The hundred or so industry figures, fashionistas and socialites who gathered at the Beverly Hills St. John store last week were there to hear how jewelry can make a difference in global diplomacy.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stopped by to tell them the meaning behind her accessories — specifically, the brooches she has worn on many a diplomatic mission.
The author of “Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box,” Albright has been on a tour to promote the book and a New York exhibition of her jewelry. Included, for instance, is a three-monkey pin — signifying hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil — that she first wore at a meeting with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was taking what she calls a “callous attitude” toward human rights in Chechnya. Or there was the angel she wore when making remarks in 1998 following the bombing of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
“None of this would have happened in this way had it not been for Saddam Hussein,” says Albright, tracing her trademark pin tradition to when she was ambassador to the United Nations and made repeatedly harsh remarks about the Iraqi regime.
“There was a poem in the Baghdad papers that compared me to an ‘unparalled serpent,’ ” she says. “I had a snake pin and I decided to wear it when we were dealing with Iraq. So that is how it all started, and the cameras picked it up, and I thought, ‘Well, this is fun.’ So I went out and I got a lot of costume jewelry that kind of signified what mood I was in.”
When she was negotiating the anti-ballistic missile treaty with the Russian foreign minister, she was wearing an arrow pin that looked like a missile. “He said, ‘Is that one of your missile interceptors?’ and I said ‘Yes, and we make them very small so it is time to negotiate.’ ”
Over the years, she’s been given many pins as gifts, like a star-spangled U.S. flag brooch given by Julann Griffin who received it from by her ex-husband, Merv Griffin. One of her many eagle pins was designed by Joseff of Hollywood. She managed to get an entire jazz band on her jacket when she paid tribute to Stevie Wonder at an event for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
If Albright has found a way to merge the glitter with global policy, it can’t be a big surprise that she is praiseworthy of the glitterati’s involvement in international issues, even as skeptics question whether efforts in areas like Darfur have made much difference.
“If they take their stardom in a way that furthers causes, I think that is a very good thing,” she says. “A lot of actors are very committed and very smart people and focus in on the issues directly. They can articulate them, and I think it has made a big difference.”