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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.

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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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