Nancy Reagan has managed to find a wedding gift for Prince Charles and Lady Diana that might just turn out to be bargain of the year -- a Steuben glass bowl worth $75,000, which she bought for only $8,000 with State Department funds.
The glass bowl, engraved with a king, nobles and crusaders, had been on display at the Steuben showroom in New York since it was finished in 1975. A spokesman for Steuben said it was designed by Zevi Blum, engraved by Roland Ehrlacher, and took approximately 1,000 man-hours to make.
A Steuben piece can cost as much as $250,000, a spokeswoman said. As for the unusually low price on the Reagan gift, a spokeswoman told New York magazine, "We offer handsome discounts to the government."
When the rumor first broke that the first lady had paid $75,000 for the bowl, friends of the Reagans were suspicious. "From what I gathered, that price was way off," said Bendix vice president Nancy Reynolds, a friend of Nancy Reagan. "A dozen people over at the White House said it was wrong."
Sheila Tate, the first lady's press secretary, confirmed last night that the State Department paid $8,000 for the 13-inch long oval bowl, which she said is worth $75,000. She said the gift is "basically a donation by Steuben."
In purchasing the bowl at a cut rate, the first lady also has managed to payt homage to the thrifty ways of another president: Harry Truman, who presented a 10-inch Steuben bowl, known as the "Merry-Go-Round Bowl," to the then-Princess Elizabeth at her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947.
The New York magazine article also quoted an unidentified source as saving the bowl was to be engraved with well-known American sports figures but "that fell through."
A good thing, too. After John McEnroe's rather unpopular antics at Wimbledon, kings and crusaders just might be a more appropriate image.