Diamond ring sales weather the economic climate. Photo: Corbis

In an economic downturn, fashionistas are on the hunt for ways to cut back without sacrificing style. Sadly, this means that a girl's best friend -- hello, diamonds! -- become more fair-weather than BFF.

Today the New York Times ran an article stating that there is a ripple effect among pinched consumers and the jewelry stores that supply them.

"The new frugality has forced diamond mines to curtail production, led to deep discounting at jewelry chains, spurred hundreds of store closings and resulted in job cuts at boutiques and department stores," writes Times reporter Stephanie Rosenbloom.

But don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet fellas, there's more to this story than you think! While the jewelery industry is suffering, Rosenbloom notes that, "the sales of diamond rings and wedding bands seem to be holding up."

Cue the wedding bells!

In order to investigate this notion further, we reached out to diamond trend expert Francesca Ferrante of the Diamond Information Center who gave StyleList a crash course on buying bling-bling on a budget.

StyleList: What are your top tips for purchasing diamonds/engagement rings on a budget?


Francesca Ferrante: Go to a reputable jeweler that you trust. Know what you want from the start so you can avoid being pushed into purchasing something you don't want. If you're budget is $5,000, buy a nice quality ring that holds up in a flexible market. You can always skip an expensive honeymoon, and invest in a good diamond. There are simple ways to be smart about cutting costs.

SL: What should consumers consider when buying from a big jewelry chain versus a jeweler?

FF: The biggest pro when you go to a jeweler is the customer service. Kay Jewelers and Zales are great stores but when you go to an independent jeweler in your neighborhood, whose worked with your family or friends, they'll put more time in. It's nice to have that touch of home.

SL: How can a consumer who has no or little knowledge of diamonds get prepared before making the big purchase?

FF:
Familiarize yourself with diamonds. Go to diamondfacts.org to find out where they come from. Brush up on the 4 C's of diamonds (clarity, color, cut and carat weight). You can design your perfect ring at adiamondisforever.com, print it out, and take it straight to the jeweler. They will then be able to help you understand the details and steer you in the right direction. Don't be afraid to ask questions. We find that men tend to window-shop 3-4 weeks before buying, while women buy on impulse.

SL: What types of cuts create a large, expensive look without hurting your pockets?

FF:
Emerald and cushion cuts give you a lot of surface area to play with as opposed to a solitaire. You get more diamond for your money. Many celebs add pavé diamonds -- not for financial reasons but for detail. They add sparkle to the ring without adding to your budget. This is an easy way for someone on a smaller budget to copy celebrity style without going up the price scale.

Celebrity Engagement Rings

    Celebrity: Danielle Deleasa
    Other Half: Kevin Jonas
    State of Union: Engaged
    Jeweler: Jacob & Co.
    Cut: Solitaire Cushion
    Total Carats: 3
    Estimated Cost: $50,000

    "For a young couple, it's a nice, moderate ring considering that he could have gone bigger."

    Rachpoot/Stefa/INF

    Celebrity: Gisele Bundchen
    Other Half: Tom Brady
    State of Union: Married
    Cut: Round
    Total Carats: 4
    Estimated Cost: $100,000

    "Gisele's ring is a large round brilliant solitaire which is the perfect diamond engagement ring for a gorgeous classic beauty."

    Scott Wintrow, Getty Images

    Celebrity: Jennifer Hudson
    Other Half: David Otunga
    State of Union: Engaged
    Jeweler: Neil Lane
    Cut: Round Brilliant Platinum
    Total Carats: 6 (Center stone is 5 carats)
    Estimated Cost: $80,000

    "Jennifer designed this very unique ring set with her fiance and Neil Lane. The all micro-pave ring is set on a split-shank band which is a style that is coming back in popularity."

    Leon Bennett, WireImage

    Celebrity: Salma Hayek
    Other Half: Francois Henri Pinault
    State of Union: Married
    Cut: Three Stone Cushion
    Total Carats: 8
    Estimated Cost: $200,000

    "Salma's ring is a three stone diamond ring which is a very romantic design for a true Old Hollywood glamour girl."

    Jason Kempin, WireImage | Fame Pictures

    Celebrity: Mandy Moore
    Other Half: Ryan Adams
    State of Union: Married
    Cut: Round Brilliant
    Total Carats: 4
    Estimated Cost: $65,000

    "This is a combination of engagement and wedding rings which fits because she went straight to the alter."

    Steve Granitz, WireImage

    Celebrity: Ali Larter
    Other Half: Hayes MacArthur
    State of Union: Engaged
    Cut: Emerald
    Total Carats: 4
    Estimated Cost: $60,000

    "This diamond ring shows off Ali's feminine side with its delicate pave detail while still being large enough to give her enough sparkle on the red carpet."

    Kevin Mazur, WireImage

    Celebrity: Katherine Heigl
    Other Half: Josh Kelley
    State of Union: Married
    Jeweler: Ryan Ryan
    Cut: Pear
    Total Carats: 4
    Estimated Cost: $65,000

    "Katherine's husband Josh designed this modern ring with Ryan Ryan--who the actress wears exclusively."

    Gregg DeGuire, WireImage | Frank Micelotta, WireImage

    Celebrity: Portia de Rossi
    Other Half: Ellen DeGeneres
    State of Union: Married
    Jeweler: Neil Lane
    Cut: Marquis (set sideways)
    Total Carats: 4
    Estimated Cost: $90,000

    "Ellen worked with Neil Lane to create this ring which is an update on the Marquis. It's more Portia by throwing pink paves around the cornerstone."

    Angela Weiss, Getty Images

    Celebrity: Beyonce
    Other Half: Jay-Z
    State of Union: Married
    Jeweler: Lorraine Schwartz
    Cut: Emerald
    Total Carats: 18
    Estimated Cost: $5 million

    "This is an investment piece. It's so rare, so large, and so clean. It's sort of like having money in the bank. It's better than having a 401K."

    Steve Granitz, WireImage | Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

    Celebrity: Christina Aguilera
    Other Half: Jordan Bratman
    State of Union: Married
    Jeweler: Stephen Webster
    Cut: Vintage Round Brilliant
    Total Carats: 5
    Estimated Cost: $120,000

    "She's a throwback to Hollywood glamour and she definitely shows that with this vintage ring."

    Gregg DeGuire, WireImage