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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My mother insisted I read the letter from "Married (Really!)" -- it was fantastic! Six weeks ago, I replied, "In a heartbeat," when the love of my life asked me to marry him. My engagement ring is a diamond-shaped turquoise stone set in sterling silver. It's a Native American piece we found in our favorite antique shop. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of it, what it means to me, and how special the man who gave it to me is. Neither of us is a gold-and-diamond person. We love the western United States, the outdoors, Levis and a comfortable pair of boots. Silver and turquoise was the natural choice.

An Apache legend says that if you follow a rainbow to its end and dig in the wet earth, you'll find precious turquoise. So my comment to anyone who questions the significance of my "rock" is: "Diamonds look like ice; ice is cold. Why would I want a chunk of ice announcing my engagement?"

Thank you, Abby. That clipping is heading for the keepsake box. You may print my name. -- ANN KELLY (SOON TO BE SNYDER), SIDNEY, ILL.

DEAR ANN: My congratulations to you and your fiance. You are a wise woman. Diamonds aren't a girl's best friend -- the man who asks her to share his future is. Regardless of Apache legend, the treasure at the end of your rainbow was your fiance. May it ever be thus. Some of the responses I've received about wedding rings have been gems. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing to encourage "Married (Really!)" whose wedding vows are represented by silver and turquoise wedding rings. She seems at her wit's end in dealing with the rude remarks of others regarding this very personal choice of rings.

When my husband and I married, we exchanged lovely rings, each with three diamonds. However, several years into our marriage we both found ourselves working in jobs where wearing rings would be hazardous or they could easily be lost. By mutual consent, we stored our precious rings and wear them only on special occasions.

When we first started appearing without our rings, the small-town rumor mill started churning. Now, 15 years later, people are still amazed to see us together. We've been happily married for nearly 30 years. Each passing year is richer than the last -- and quite frankly, I couldn't care less what others think about our marriage. I certainly do not have to prove to anyone that I am married.

So, "Married (Really!)," enjoy the rings you and your spouse chose as the symbol of your loving bond with each other, and to heck with anyone who questions your marital status. -- STILL MARRIED (REALLY!), GREAT FALLS, MONT.

DEAR STILL MARRIED: Rumors can be devastating if you let them. I applaud your healthy attitude. If everyone swept his own doorstep, the world would be a better place. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I'm responding to the letter from "Married (Really!) in Arizona." When my wife and I were engaged, I could afford only a modest wedding band set with a very small diamond. Years later, in better times, I broached the idea of a new engagement ring with a larger diamond.

My wife was appalled at the idea. The original was the ring that I had given her, and no other could replace it! I have since come to realize that the real jewel in our marriage is the love we have for each other. -- BOB IN BUFFALO

DEAR BOB: Absolutely. I couldn't have put it more succinctly.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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