Location: Washington D.C.
Marital Status: Married
Education: University of Texas
Ann Hand has lived about a dozen lives in her 75 years. She was a burgeoning opera singer when she met her husband, Lloyd Hand at 18. When he became Chief of Protocol under Lyndon Johnson, she was thrust into the center of the political world, all while raising their five children. But her most well-known act came at age 53, when she started her jewelry career.
“All my kids started leaving the nest. I just started stringing beads made out of the Washington Post and wall paper paste in my basement,” she laughs. Twenty-two years later, Ann Hand Jewelry is a must-own for Washington’s political elite. Hilary Clinton wore her Ann Hand Liberty Pin to meet Mother Teresa. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wore hers to take her oath of office. When FOF asked Ann how a nice girl from Houston ended up a jewelry mogul, she told me, “Serendipity!”
Did you go to University?
I went to University of Texas. I didn’t graduate. That’s where I met my husband. We met at the freshman dance.
How long have you been married?
What were you doing before designing jewelry?
I was at my husband’s side; traveling a lot, raising five children and having a glorious life. I mean, I was always doing something—importing baby clothes, getting my real estate license, painting—I was searching.
How did your jewelry take off?
enator Sam Nunn’s wife asked me to do a pin to commemorate the Statue of Freedom, which had been taken down for restoration. There was a huge celebration for her unveiling and all the guests were given a pin. The First Lady wore one, and that put me on the map.
You didn’t have a shop yet?
No. I had a tiny pre-fab cottage that I built in my garden in ’89. Then I did an American eagle, which has become a classic, and then a flag. A friend asked me how I came up with the idea of an American collection and I said, “I don’t have an American collection.” She said, “Well of course you do!” And I thought, she’s right! We just took that and developed it.
Are you still designing things yourself?
Oh sure! But I have a wonderful young man who does all my accurate drawings.
How do you define your style now?
Very classic. I like simple, timeless things. My jewelry is not real trendy. I love to wear Armani because I need clothes that showcase my jewelry.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel. I do wear some of St. John’s because they’re good when I travel.
Over the years, has your style evolved?
There was a period where I loved all the ostrich feathers—things that were feminine and girly. I have become more tailored.
Who has influenced your style most?
Grace Kelly, and course Jackie. We came to Washington the year after President Kennedy’s assassination and Jackie and I were about four years apart in age. Her dress was just very classic and timeless.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Washington?
Cafe Milano. Franco [Nuschese, owner] is one of my dear, dear friends. There’s a sense of entertainment in the restaurant. He named one after me called Ann Hand Capellini. It’s pasta with a light tomato sauce so I can eat it and not feel guilty.
Do you have a favorite wine?
Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
What’s your favorite accessory of all that you’ve designed?
Our eagle. And I did love our American Beauty Rose. It’s sterling with Swarovski crystals.
Do you have a signature perfume?
My own. It’s called Power. I love it! It’s made by a master perfumer in Italy. We use the essence of the flowers, no synthetics. It’s gardenias and jasmine. I had it on one night and this really dear friend of mine—he’s very gay—hugged me and said, “Oh you smell good! I think I might turn.”
What about a great book you’ve read?
I finally read Gone with the Wind. I was going to Paris and I bought it in the airport. I got there and my daughter got sick so we couldn’t leave the hotel room for three days and I read the whole time. It was so much better than the movie!
Who or what inspires you?
Museums and art. My favorite is Mary Cassatt. I love the light, and the way she painted, and the subject matter with the children. My first visit to the White House, Mrs. Johnson had a beautiful Cassatt hanging in the living quarters.
What’s your face cleansing routine?
I just splash my face with water and use Pond’s cold cream. I don’t use too many moisturizers. My husband uses Oil of Olay.
How do you rejuvenate?
If I have a busy day and then a busy evening, I just go home, take an aspirin, take a hot bath and then I’m raring to go. Washington is a town where you get a lot done after 7:30 at night.
Does it take its toll?
If you let it. But I feel so blessed. I feel like we’re on the front row watching history happen.
What’s the most momentous political event that you’ve witnessed?
President Obama taking office. My husband’s office overlooks the White House grounds. So we watched through this window. It was unbelievable.
Do you have a passion project?
(Laughter) Everyday I wake up with a new one! Today I’m trying to design a camellia pin. We had one years ago, but we lost the mold.
Do you have grandchildren?
I have five fabulous grandchildren. I’m turning over more and more of the day-to-day operations to the oldest one. She’s in charge of the new website.
Who inspires you?
My father was an inspiration because he played the piano for me every night while I sang. I was studying opera in college with a wonderful coach named Mr. Bing, the brother of Edward Bing at the Metropolitan Opera. So the Met was always my goal. But then I got married, so I sang lullabies instead.