The royal couple and the ring that rocked the world. (AFP/Getty)
Ever since Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton last week, the 18-carat oval sapphire on the finger of the world's most famous bride-to-be became instantly coveted by women all over the world. The $60,000 gem, adorned with 14 smaller white diamonds, once belonged to Lady Di. But-thanks to a flurry of recent replicas-affordable versions are now available to non-royals.
"Everyone wants to feel like a princess," says Evan Guttman of The Natural Sapphire Company. Guttman's New York jewelry shop was the first to announce a recreation of the royal engagement piece, after William gave word of his proposal to the press. The company's version is now out-selling everything on their site.
"We've been getting requests from Russia to Japan," says Guttman, whose website crashed last Tuesday, the day of the Wills and Kate engagement news, due to an overwhelming amount of searches. "We did a lot of research of Diana's ring in advance of the announcement and with the help of a 3D design team we were able to replicate the details and recreate the casting."
The price for their Sri Lankan sapphire ring surrounded by a halo of tiny diamonds, ranges from $1,000 to $1.38 million depending on the clarity, size and cut.
A replica of Middleton's ring retails for $1,000 at the Natural Sapphire Company.
But Will and Kate aren't the only couple responsible for bestselling ring replicas. It's been a big year for celebrity engagements and, in many cases, their unconventional gems have garnered as much attention as their romances. Katy Perry, Kristen Bell and Nicole Richie have all modeled dazzling baubles with jaw-dropping price tags. Jessica Simpson also announced her engagement this month with the help of a bright red ruby, offset by two diamonds.
Her fiance, Eric Johnson, sparked a series of replicas after his visit to Hollywood jeweler Neil Lane. "He knew what he wanted when he came in," says Lane. "He chose a very romantic stone which is Jessica's birth stone, plus the red also represents love."
Lane, the go-to designer for celebrities like Demi Moore, Jennifer Hudson, and Reese Witherspoon, is no stranger to the knock-off business. "Our rings are copied all the time," he says. "People just want to emulate celebrities and their lives."
[Photos: See more of Kate Middleton]
And as celebrities take more risks with their rings, so do the rest of us. In addition to veering away from the traditional diamond, Lane has also noticed a trend toward "cushion cut" and vintage style looks emerging in replicas. But, he insists, there's nothing like the real thing.
"When people pull pictures from magazines and bring it to their local jeweler they can copy the design but they never really capture the nuances," he says. "You don't get the detail carving in the metal or undercarriage when you copy the real thing."
You also don't get a big zero on your bank statement. So as long as celebrities continue to sport six-figure gemstones, more affordable versions will continue to flood the market. Some are still retailing for staggering prices, while others cost less than a three-course dinner. Gentlemen, take note.