Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro wasn't at all certain that the gift she had chosen was a success, despite the recipient's exclamations of "Look at that! Hey! How beautiful!"

"I don't know if you really do like the gift," she told President Bush on Sunday at the United Nations.

"I do," Bush assured her. "I do like the gift. I like this better because it does have a message."

Bush didn't spell out that message, but Chamorro did when she made her presentation, the Associated Press reported.

The Soviet-made AK-47 rifle, cut in half with a blow torch then mounted and framed, had been seized from a civilian, she explained.

To her, that said something about what she's doing to ensure democracy these days in post-Sandinista Nicaragua.

Nobody is downgrading the diamond, but as Nancy Tuckerman makes clear in her new book, gift-givers have a lot of other "best friends" out there. She lists about 600 in this pocket-size guide, called "In the Tiffany Style: Gift-Giving for All Occasions."

Tuckerman is one of two former White House social secretaries with new books on Doubleday's fall list. The other, Letitia Baldrige, was Tuckerman's predecessor in the Kennedy White House. Baldrige's earlier literary efforts include a Tiffany-blessed book titled "Tiffany Table Settings," written when she was an executive with the firm.

Since then Baldrige has written nearly a dozen books, including four dealing with good manners. The latest of these, "The New Manners for the '90s," came out this year. She hasn't stopped there, however. Now comes her first novel, "Public Affairs/Private Relations," about a friend of a First Lady who meets the love of her life at -- where else? -- a White House state dinner.

Baldrige started writing about etiquette when she revised "The Amy Vanderbilt Book of Etiquette" in 1978. Now Tuckerman, with collaborator Nancy Dunnan, is revising the revision, the first write-through of the book since Baldrige's.

One member of Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis's family -- his father-in-law -- says that "from the beginning" he never thought Dukakis would be elected president in his 1988 race against George Bush.

"I suppose I shouldn't say it now, but I said I don't think the American people are ready for a president with a Greek name and a Jewish wife," Harry Ellis Dickson said at a party here for Kitty Dukakis that Democratic National Committee Treasurer Robert A. Farmer gave to mark the publication of her new book, "Now You Know."

Dickson, an octogenarian who calls himself "the greatest pessimist in the world," said he reached his conclusion "when I saw the flag-waving going on and the people falling for it. Maybe in 20 or 50 years it will be different."

A first-generation American born in Cambridge, Mass., to Russian Jewish immigrants, Dickson is retired now -- if guest-conducting 64 concerts last year counts as being "retired." As first chair in the violin section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor of the Boston Pops for 49 years, Dickson is still sought after by music lovers and, according to his daughter, by attractive widows. Dickson's wife died in 1977.

Though a "name" in his own right, Dickson disclaims such celebrity when he tags along on Kitty's book tour. He is often heard introducing himself simply as "Kitty's father."

Three area health organizations will present the 1990 Breast Cancer Awareness Awards to four local women tomorrow for their efforts to promote awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection.

Sharing the spotlight will be Marilyn Quayle, wife of Vice President Dan Quayle, for her activist role in advocating early detection; Rep. Barbara Vucanovich (R-Nev.), who underwent surgery for breast cancer and has sponsored legislation in Congress that would make mammography screening available to the underprivileged; Sandy Rovner, a Washington Post health reporter who writes frequently about breast cancer-related issues; and Catherine Weller, whose 1976 mastectomy inspired her to set up at Georgetown University Hospital a unit of the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program, a support group for breast cancer patients.

Researchers estimate that 150,000 American women develop breast cancer each year and that 44,000 die of the disease. Tomorrow's luncheon at the Westin Hotel is sponsored by the National Women's Health Resource Center, the Betty Ford Comprehensive Breast Center at Columbia Hospital for Women and the D.C. chapter of the American Cancer Society. Proceeds will go to the Rose Kushner Memorial Mammography Fund at Columbia Hospital to provide mammography screening for low-income women. The fund is named for Kushner, an outspoken activist for breast cancer victims' rights who died in January.

The issues sound familiar: freewheeling practices of private lending institutions and, thanks to his predecessor, a lack of government regulation. What Martin Van Buren inherited from Andrew Jackson in 1837 would plague him throughout his presidency. By 1841, despite good intentions and high marks for statesmanship, "Little Van," the first president born under the American flag, was a man of history whose only memorable legacy is an oval parlor on the state floor known as the Blue Room. Now collectors of White House Christmas ornaments can have their own Blue Rooms. Chosen by the White House Historical Association as the model for the 1990 ornament, this Blue Room measures 3 1/4 inches in diameter, is re-created in 24-karat gold finish with white and blue enamel, and, at $13, is $2 more expensive than last year's ornament. It's available at the association's Jackson Place NW headquarters.