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YIWU, China (Reuters Life!) - Britain may be on the other side of the world, but Chinese manufacturers are cashing in on the British royal wedding as they churn out tens of thousands of replica royal engagement rings.
Last November, Prince William and his beaming fiancee Kate Middleton showed off the blue sapphire ring, surrounded with diamonds, which had belonged to William's mother, the late Princess Diana.
Dozens of factories located in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province, home to the world's largest wholesale market for a wide range of small items from pencils to socks to cups, have been rushing to produce knockoffs of the ring to meet surging global demand.
Jewelry manufacturer Zhou Mingwang said he jumped at the opportunity of making the replica rings as soon as the royal engagement was announced.
"When they announced their engagement, it was just by chance that I saw their ring on the internet. I felt that this had a great commemorative value and thought there was a good market for the product," Zhou added.
Zhou said that his company decided to put the on their website on Alibaba.com, China's largest e-commerce site, and that inquiries began to come in.
Zhou's factory offers four different models of the ring with slightly different designs and color tones.
The cheapest is made of acrylic and metallic alloys while the best in his range is made from zircon and silver-coated copper.
Zhou said factories like his which were producing the rings had to make slight alterations in size or design from the original in order to avoid trademark infringement issues.
"For example, if the original ring has fourteen indentations, we can change it to be ten or four. So we made slight modifications in order to tackle this problem so that there are no trademark issues," he added.
The cost of the original ring was estimated to be around 30,000 pounds but the imitation rings are selling for a wholesale price of as little as 3 yuan ($0.45) for the cheapest models and up to 50 yuan ($7.56) for rings made with better materials.
Orders are coming in fast and Zhou said his rings were being sought by customers in the United Kingdom and the United States as well as other countries in Western Europe.
Besides the rings, Chinese factories are also producing other wedding memorabilia replicas such as cups, plates and key chains associated with the soon-to-be wed royal couple.
Factory owners said they were confident of strong sales ahead of the wedding on April 29 and even after that.
Fu Xuxian, owner of the Yiwu Unnar Jewelry factory, said his factory has been making different samples of products such as mugs and mini teddy bears featuring the couple.
But the replica rings are the ones flying off the shelves.
"In the United Kingdom, the British royal family, including the Queen, is quite popular with the public. I feel that memorabilia associated with the royal family should be able to sell well in the long term," Fu said.
"Of course, the golden period for sales would be from now until April 29."
Editing by Elaine Lies