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Happy Singletons Open Wallets, Say Ah

For women who don't want to count on Prince Charming or who just like nice jewelry, the Ah ring is just the thing.

January 08, 2002|SCARLET CHENG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Three generations of Kirschenbaum women are sitting around the dining table in Lily's orderly Woodland Hills home--Lily, 70, is the grandmother, and by her sit daughter Lisa, 35, and granddaughter (Lisa's niece) Jennifer Bailey, 17. All are proudly showing off the same petite band of white gold, worn on the pinkie and inset with 11 sparkling, round full-cut diamonds. And while diamonds may or may not be a girl's best friend, they can certainly give a welcome lift to one's mood.

Earlier last year Lily bought the ring for Lisa, then liked it so much she bought one for herself. Soon her granddaughter was smitten, too, and began asking for one. Lily gave Jennifer hers for Hanukkah.

It's the Ah ring--which, according to the small booklet that came with the mail-order bauble, stands for either "available and happy" or "attached and happy," take your pick.

Lisa spotted it first--in the March issue of Oprah Winfrey's "O" magazine. A stack of them were prominently depicted on a full-page spread, the opener for the section of Oprah's personal must-haves.

"I saw it and loved it," Lisa recalls, "and I showed it to my Mom and said I'd really love that for my birthday."

Lisa says she liked the idea of a woman not waiting for a man to buy her a diamond. "It was appealing that you could buy your own," she says, "even though [my mother] bought it for me!"

The Ah ring is the brainchild of Ruta Fox, 39, who grew up in Sherman Oaks and edited Exposure, an L.A.-based pop-culture magazine, before she moved East in the mid-'90s. Two years ago, the New York-based fashion and beauty writer treated herself to a diamond pinkie ring.

"I'd gotten this cute little pinkie ring and loved the way it looked," she says by phone from Manhattan.

When her friends oohed and aahed over it, she helped them buy one too. Pretty soon, it became a bonding agent, as well as a declaration of their shared state of unmarried bliss. "It all started on that girlfriend level," she explains. "We're all single, we're all available, and we're all happy."

Voila, the Ah ring!

So many others were intrigued by the ring that at the end of 2000, Fox decided to make and market her own. At first she imported a slightly modified version of the ring, but, since last June, she has had them manufactured in New York to her specifications. She personally helps select the stones for the rings, which sell for $295 plus shipping costs.

She relies a lot on word-of-mouth and an occasional media mention. Her first break was being placed in the March issue of "O" magazine. The orders poured in--by phone ([800] 310-9694) and online (www.ahring.com)--and she has already sold 3,500 of the rings.

"I wanted to suggest that instead of waiting for Mr. Right to give you a ring," says Fox, "it would be phenomenal if you could get it for yourself. It totally struck a nerve-- some people tell me, 'This is the first nice ring I've bought for myself.'"

And, yes, Fox continues to wear her ring--and to describe herself as happy and single.

Back in Woodland Hills, the ring is a hit in the Kirschenbaum family.

Lily extends her right hand and turns the ring to catch the light. "It makes me happy to have this little ring on my finger. Some people notice it, some people don't."

Lisa admits it's "kind of neat to see your ring on Oprah."

"I'm just a copycat, I want everything they have," says Jennifer, indicating her aunt and grandmother. "And I love jewelry, I'm obsessed with it," says the UCSB sophomore, who wears two diamond studs in each ear.

The "available" part of the story behind the ring doesn't really appeal to the women. Lily is married. Jennifer has a steady boyfriend who buys her lots of jewelry. And, says Lisa, "I don't want to say, 'Hi, I'm single, look at my ring!'"

Lisa does like the fact that she and a handful of old friends are getting the ring, one by one. "These are the friends I've had since junior high. Slowly but surely they're all getting the ring, so it's a bonding thing as well."

After a while she lets on another reason why the ring, which she never takes off, feels right for her. "I was engaged, so I had a diamond ring," says Lisa with a hint of wistfulness. "It was heartbreaking when the engagement broke up. That was a sadness for me to look at my hand and not see the ring that I loved for a year, so this brings me a newer phase of my life."

"My mom wants one now," says Jennifer. "She feels left out." She turns to her grandmother. "She says she's going to get it for her birthday in May. Will she?"

Knowing that this may go into print, Lily is coy. "I think I may get it for her, but don't tell her."

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