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Ring Masters

Diamonds are forever, even if their owners aren't, which makes for a very healthy resale market. A 24-karat guide to the jewels in the town.


If your bank account is brimming, join the ranks who have worn Fred Leighton's jewelry to the Oscars (773 Madison Avenue, at 66th Street; 288-1872). "It's the fabulous side of secondhand -- what you want under the Christmas tree," says one manager. Maybe if Santa runs an index fund: Prices here can top $100,000, though a fair number dip as low as $1,000. Kate Winslet's Titanic rock wouldn't stand out here alongside the world's largest carved emerald (it belonged to Lady Sackville-West, Vita's mother) and Duchess of Windsor jewels from the recent auction.

At the other end of the budget spectrum, try Siegler's Garage Sale (106 West 13th Street; 352-3090). Most of this shop's costume jewelry comes from oddball collectors -- one source bought touristy baubles from all over the world, another was a club diva. Perfect for the playing-dress-up-from-Grandma's-trunk look -- and not many items cross the $10 barrier.

For a more intimate shopping experience, the hip downtown jewelry designer Andrea Renee recommends Antique Addiction (436 West Broadway; 925-6342). Culled from flea markets, estate auctions, and pickers, Antique Addiction's stock includes forties clip-on earrings, Victorian engagement rings, and rings from the thirties and forties.

The bottom two floors of the Chelsea Antiques Building (110 West 25th Street; 929-0909) are crammed with 200 to 250 dealers' showcases, run by the building's management; prices aren't always fixed. Specialties include old Tiffany and Chanel pieces; Victoriana (an alligator-claw watch fob for $58, a mourning pin for $195, a gold-and-hair bracelet for $160), Deco items (like a German sterling-and-paste brooch for $85), and vintage Miriam Haskell. If the sheer volume overwhelms you, the staff will help you navigate. There's a customer-request service too -- leave a description of what you want, and the buyers will watch for it and call.


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