State of the HOU-nion

Nancy Pelosi's SOTU Necklace Came from a Houston Designer

The Mariquita Masterson piece was a gift from the Speaker's daughters after the November election.

By Abby Ledoux February 6, 2019

Speaker Nancy Pelosi wears a Mariquita Masterson necklace at last night's State of the Union address.

A little piece of Houston was on full display before the nation last night when Speaker Nancy Pelosi donned a Mariquita Masterson statement necklace for the State of the Union address.

The double-strand blue agate necklace with an opaque red center was especially striking against Pelosi's all-white ensemble, part of female lawmakers' collective tribute to suffragettes. "It really did show up," agreed Masterson in a chat with Houstonia the next morning. "Fantastic!"

For her part, the longtime jewelry designer, who will be 81 next month, had no idea she'd make primetime last night—in fact, she was at the annual Rienzi Society Dinner while President Donald Trump made his speech to the nation. She grew concerned when her phone began to blow up, bombarded with text messages her dinner etiquette forbade her from opening to read at the table.

"I could just see that they were coming in," she said. "I just couldn't imagine what was going on. Finally I scrolled down and there was a picture of her with her white jacket on and the necklace."

While Masterson didn't know Pelosi would wear it at such a public moment, she did know she had it: One of Pelosi's daughters, who lives in Houston, had come into Masterson's River Oaks studio to buy it as a gift for her mom after the November election that saw Democrats take back the House, returning Pelosi, the highest-ranking elected woman in U.S. history, to her speakership.

"I thought it was really cute of her daughters to get her the red and blue," Masterson said.

Raised in Mexico City, Masterson pioneered the concept of glass jewelry more than 30 years ago, inspired by a glassblower she worked with to design a gala table setting. "My whole idea was to do a cross between art and fashion," she told Houstonia. "I also wanted something feminine that really makes women look beautiful."

At first considered "unusual," Masterson's distinct, one-of-a-kind pieces are now highly sought-after; some retail for upward of $1,000. She credits her success to strong support from friends and family—her children and grandchildren are actively involved in the business, and her granddaughter runs the River Oaks studio—and to what she calls Houston's "can-do attitude." The city, full of risk-takers, "is an incredibly wonderful place," she added.

Her designs have graced the necks, wrists, ears, and fingers of other big names, too: "Mrs. Gorbachev had some earrings. Tony Blair's wife, Laura Bush, Mrs. Bush—they all had some," Masterson said. "And Lynn Wyatt has given Elton John some rings, which is fun!"

After last night, though, she's perhaps reached a whole new level of exposure—even if you, like Masterson, missed the televised address, there's no escaping the slew of memes it evoked, most notably centered around what many interpreted as Pelosi's condescending applause and general hilarious lack of a poker face. And what's right there, front and center for all to see? That Houston-born necklace.

"It's very exciting," Masterson said, whether it's the Speaker of the House or a fellow guest at the Rienzi dinner. "Let's face it—it's very, very nice when I walk into a party and I see some people wearing my jewelry. You have an idea and 30 years later, it's still going."

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