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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Albright Left Putin Guessing With Her Choice of Brooches

Vladimir Putin was among the people scratching their heads when Madeleine Albright started using jewelry to send messages to world leaders, foreign governments and the press after becoming the first female U.S. secretary of state in 1997.

Putin told then-President Bill Clinton that he routinely tried deciphering the meaning of Albright’s brooches, Albright writes in her new book, “Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomatic Jewel Box.”

Sometimes, she offered the interpretation. She wore an arrow-like pin during talks with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

“Is that one of your interceptor missiles?” he asked.

“Yes, and as you can see, we know how to make them very small. So you’d better be ready to negotiate,” Albright replied.

It all started in 1994 when Albright, after being called an “unparalleled serpent” by the Iraqi press, met the country’s officials wearing a snake brooch. Albright was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal,” Albright writes. Used at the right time, the symbol “can add warmth or needed edge to a relationship.”

She wore a very large U.S. flag brooch when meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il and stuck on zebra pins for a get-together with Nelson Mandela at his estate in South Africa.

As the pins became part of her public persona, the collection grew. There were numerous ladybugs, butterflies and hot-air balloons to express her good mood. Spiders, snakes and flies came in handy for more combative occasions. Turtles marked slow negotiations and owls sought wisdom. More than 200 of them are now on display at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design.