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) -- It's poised to be a glitzy holiday for jewelry retailers.

According to the National Retail Federation, the number of shoppers who purchased jewelry over the Black Friday weekend rose substantially, from 11.7% in 2009 to $14.3% this year.

Both comScore and Coremetrics also indicated improved growth in the jewelry category, up in the 15% to 20% range.

This could be a banner year for jewelry sales, says Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. His assessment reflects both a pent-up demand from the recession and the intrinsic value of jewelry as a hedge on inflation and the declining dollar.

Of course,



is expected to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this demand in jewelry.

Last week the high-end jeweler reported better-than-expected third-quarter profit and upped its full-year forecast.

During the quarter, Tiffany earned $55.1 million, or 43 cents a share, from $43.3 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier. Tiffany's sales grew 14% to $681.7 million, while U.S. same-store sales rose 5%. Analysts were calling for a profit of 37 cents a share on revenue of $652.8 million.

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Tiffany also noted that it is seeing the return of higher-priced purchases. "We continue to see bifurcated performance, with declines in sales and transactions below $500, but double-digit percentage increases in most every other higher priced category," investor relations chief Mark Aaron said on a conference call with analysts. "This indicates to us diverging effects to one degree or another that the economy is having on consumer spending."

Looking ahead, Tiffany now foresees full-year earnings in the range of $2.72 to $2.77 a share, from a prior outlook of $2.60 to $2.65.

"We are now a few weeks into the all-important two-month holiday season and sales growth is exceeding our expectations, although the majority of the holiday season is certainly still ahead of us," CEO Michael Kowalski said.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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