For the Late Secretary Madeleine Albright, Jewelry was a "Diplomatic Arsenal"

new york december 14 madeleine albright promotes read my pins at the museum of art and design on december 14, 2009 in new york city photo by andy kropagetty images
Madeleine Albright's Jewelry to be AuctionedAndy Kropa

Caroline Channing called diamonds a "girl's best friend" and Diane Von Furstenburg described jewelry as "the perfect spice." Secretary Madeleine K. Albright, however? She named her brooches a "personal diplomatic arsenal."

Come May, some parts of this "arsenal" will head to auction at Freeman's | Hindman. The collection–comprised of Albright's hallmark pins, diplomatic and political memorabilia, designer scarves, hats, handbags, antique furniture, and other decorative objects–tell more than a story of taste (though it's clear that she had it). Rather, they demonstrate how jewelry became a powerful tool in moving political conversations.

Take a trip down memory lane for a second. It's 1994 and Albright, serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, had just criticized Saddam Hussein. In turn, Hussein's poet-in-residence responded by calling her "an unparalleled serpent." At her next meeting with Iraqi officials, Albright accessorized her forest green blazer with a serpent brooch, despite disliking snakes. It was a deliberate sartorial move and a cheeky form of confrontation.

She repeated the tactic in 1996 when she wore a bluebird brooch facing down while mourning the Cuban civilians who lost their lives after Cuban fighter pilots shot down two unarmed civilian aircraft. And in 2000, when serving as the U.S. Secretary of State, she wore a bug brooch while meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov after it was revealed that the Russians were bugging the State Department.

379834 02 secretary of state madeleine albright discusses the peace process in the middle east and the future of yugoslavia on nbcs meet the press october 8, 2000 in washington dc photo by alex wongnewsmakers
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discusses the peace process in the Middle East in 2000. Fittingly, she decided to wear a brooch in the shape of an olive branch. Alex Wong
madeleine albright us secretary of state wearing a zebra on her shoulder smiles, december 13 as she listens to south african deputy president thabo mbeki answers questions during their joint pressconference in pretoria albright had talks with thabo mbeki before she sat down with south african president mandela as a part of her african tour afp photo afpodd andersenoa photo by odd andersen afp photo by odd andersenafp via getty images
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wears a Zebra brooch during a press conference in South Africa. ODD ANDERSEN

Similar instances continued throughout Albright's career, and eventually, an exhibition called Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection, which comprised over 200 pins that she wore between 1997-2001, was created. (The exhibition is on loan to the National Museum of American Diplomacy).

Some of the highlights in the upcoming auction at Freeman's | Hindman include a rose-gold, diamond, ruby, and sapphire leopard brooch (est. $2,000-$3,000); a Lenox porcelain millennium pattern presentation bowl from the Clinton Administration (est. $2,000-$3,000)' a Christian Dior Lady Dior bag, 1997 (est. $800-$1,200); a Democratic Blue Bascora briefcase (est. $300-$500); a Bulgari white and gold diamond 'Fireworks' choker necklace (est. $12,000-$18,000); and Swarovski Opera Glasses (est. $200-$400).

a dog wearing a dress
A rose gold, diamond, ruby, and sapphire patriotic leopard pendant and brooch. Courtesy of Freeman's | Hindman
a closeup of a bracelet
Bulgari, White Gold and Diamond ‘Fireworks.’Courtesy of Freeman's | Hindman

"Madeleine Albright’s name and career are synonymous with reaching a pinnacle of female achievement” Gretchen Hause, Senior Vice President and co-head of the Department, of Books and Manuscripts at the auction house said in a release. “Presenting her biography in objects at auction is a professional and personal honor, and will no doubt excite new generations of global citizens."

a black and silver camera
A pair of Swarovski Crystal embellished opera glasses. Courtesy of Freeman's | Hindman

The sale will be exhibited first in Chicago from April 2-9 2024, and then in New York from May 2-6 2024. The live auction will take place in New York on May 7, 2024, and an online auction will take place on May 8, 2024. To register or learn more, please visit

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