03/02/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
WHEN HILLARY CLINTON WENT ON the Today show Jan. 27 to defend her husband, viewers could hardly fail to notice the glint in her eye—and the sparkle on her lapel, where she had pinned a gold-plated eagle perched on an imitation pearl. Then the $75 brooch began cropping up on other power suits. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala wore hers to the President's State of the Union address, while presidential secretary Betty Currie donned one to testify before Kenneth Starr's grand jury.
"I wear it often for presidential events," says Ann Lewis, director of White House communications. "It's a way of identifying with the Clintons." That suits the pin's creator, Ann Hand, 64, whose attorney husband, Lloyd, was LBJ's protocol chief—with one caveat. "It's wonderful if people want to wear it in their honor," she says. "But the eagle is our national symbol. It belongs to everyone."
Then again, Mrs. Clinton, who got the pin as a gift in '93 from former Miss America Phyllis George, may need hers more than most. The eagle, says Hand, "gives you strength."
A mother of five, Hand turned to jewelry design in 1988 as "a way of recovery" after her son Thomas died in a car accident at age 27. But the Houston native, who has sold more than 12,000 pins since 1992 (there is also a $5,500 18-karat gold version) through her private catalog and on QVC, still can't believe how high her eagle has soared. "Never did I dream," says Hand, "I would have my own career."