How to buy jewelry in downtimes -- guilt-free

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tiaraA story in this morning's New York Times does a broad sweep of the jewelry industry, in which names from Harry Winston to Claire's have lost a lot of glitter over the last year. Jewelry, it seems, has been on the receiving end of many consumers' no-brainer cutbacks. Grooms-to-be are shaving a couple carats off their proposal plans as 'two months' salary' suddenly seems like an absurd amount to sign away. Gala-going ladies -- the ones that are left, anyway -- are discreetly turning to rental services for their black-tie baubles. And jewelry fashionistas are turning to eBay for bargains.

It's easy to see why consumers might rein in their jewelry spending. There's something about standing at a counter and purchasing yourself a sparkly necklace that's more guilt-inspiring than giving in to a jacket or a pair of shoes. But if you're not prepared to suspend adding to your jewelry collection until the economy recovers, check out our five ways to buy some bling without blowing your budget.
For the celebrity obsessor:
Watch the red carpet pre-show, then grab your credit card and head over to Emitations, which sells costume-jewelry copies of celebrity looks -- like these drop earrings inspired by Angelina Jolie's emerald Oscars pair -- as well as on-trend jewelry styles. Emitations is unbeatable when it comes to the celebrity fashion cycle. Case in point: they've already got a replica of the eldest Jonas brother's engagement ring for sale.

For the proposal planner:
Speaking of engagement rings, men looking to pop the question on a budget can do so with a little creativity. One of the best ways to save cash without looking cheap? Buy vintage. Search for terms like 'antique' and 'estate' when perusing old rings -- reputable dealers like Dover Jewelry offer gorgeous styles at a huge range of prices. And some vintage jewelry sellers may be willing to negotiate, especially now.

For the gemstone hunter:
Lusting after a tennis bracelet or a pair of birthstone earrings? Keep a hawk's eye on Overstock.com. The inventory can be overwhelming in volume and fluctuates daily, but there's fantastic deals among the masses -- like this elegant ruby pendant, perfect for July birthday girls.

For the Tiffany dreamer:
Leading ladies from Audrey Hepburn to Reese Witherspoon have had major onscreen moments in the iconic store, and so girls of all generations have grown up fantasizing about getting their own little blue boxes. Now might be the hardest time in recent history to make those dreams come true -- but Tiffany is meeting consumers halfway by broadening their lower-priced silver selections, which include classic styles like this initial pendant.

For the indie ingenue:
If you love unique, art-inspired pieces, Etsy is your playground -- whether there's a recession on or not. Thousands of fledgling jewelry artists sell on Etsy, which is like an online flea market, minus the spotty hours and claustrophobia. And many of them will even let you collaborate on a custom item, letting you execute your vision and name your price.
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