October 1, 2009 - Although she didn’t know it at the time, jewelry designer Aileen Lampman-Francioni was being considered to create a piece of jewelry for the G-20 Summit when the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts contacted her in early September. It wasn’t until Wednesday before the Summit that Aileen learned that her handmade "Leaf and Tendril" necklace had been selected as a gift for the visiting heads-of-state and their spouses.
Aileen, owner of Pittsburgh-based Ai Jewelry, is still in shock about the course of events that have occurred in the last few weeks. After making several necklaces at the request of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Aileen was asked to come to what she thought was a simple interview and photo shoot on September 23. Instead, she was met with a full-scale press conference involving Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and County Executive Dan Onorato, at which she learned her necklace had been selected.
“In just a few weeks, I was contacted to make a total of 25 necklaces and didn’t know what they would be used for. There was certainly some last-minute rushing to meet the tight deadlines, but it was worth it,” said Lampman. “It’s all tremendously flattering, and I am speechless.”
Three levels of gift baskets were created for the G-20. The first was given to the heads-of-state, the next was for their vice presidents and the third was given to the sherpas (or personal representatives of world leaders). Aileen’s necklaces were included in the gift baskets given to the heads-of-state and the female spouses, including Michelle Obama. Because Germany and Argentina have female heads-of-state, the necklace was given directly to those dignitaries.
Aileen, a graduate of Edinboro University, quickly learned that the wide variety of cultures represented in the G-20 presented some limitations on her design possibilities. She had suggested including matching earrings to go with the necklace but was informed that earrings may not be seen as a suitable accessory in some of the countries involved in the G-20.
In addition to Aileen’s necklace, the gift baskets included other locally crafted gifts such as glass bowls, personalized Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys, local music and gourmet chocolate. Representatives from the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, who managed the assembly of the baskets, said that the gifts represented the vitality of the Pittsburgh cultural landscape. An example of the gift basket is currently on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.