Jewelry retailer Zale ( ZLC) posted a jump in third-quarter profit, boosted by the company's wedding and solitaire categories. The company earned $9.4 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with $7.7 million, or 22 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts expected the company to earn 29 cents a share. "During the period, operating disciplines remained firmly in place, with tight controls on inventory and expenses as reflected in the 70 basis points of operating margin improvement over last year," said Chief Executive Mary L. Forte. "Additionally, we continued to improve our solitaire and wedding categories, driving traffic outside of the key gift-giving periods. This resulted in a strong earnings improvement for the quarter along with the strengthening of our balance sheet." Revenue was virtually flat at $449.4 million, from $449.2 million a year ago. Comparable-store sales were down 0.3%. Zale's shares were up 0.8% at $35.59 in early afternoon trading.