Want Kate's engagement ring? Just three bucks in China

Chinese vendors looking to cash in on the frenzy over the April wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton are selling copies of her engagement ring for as little as three dollars.

Knock-offs of the 45,000-dollar sapphire-and-diamond ring that the prince gave to Middleton - and once worn by his mother, Princess Diana - are on offer at various shops on Taobao.com, China's largest online mall.

Most are selling for less than 100 yuan (15 dollars), with the cheapest - allegedly made of zircon and unspecified alloys - available for just 19.9 yuan, or about three dollars, according to Taobao pages searched by AFP.

The original item was given to Diana by William's father, Prince Charles, when they were engaged in February 1981. Charles and Diana divorced in 1996 and she was killed in a car crash in Paris the following year.

Chinese media said this week that factories in Yiwu, east China, the world's largest wholesale market for small products, were ramping up output of royal wedding souvenirs, from fake rings to cups to dolls.

The producers, wary of finding themselves in a copyright lawsuit, say they are making minor changes to their bogus engagement rings, reducing the number of "diamonds" surrounding the "sapphire", according to the reports.

"I believe other company owners are the same as me - none of us would like to run the risk" associated with making exact replicas, one report quoted Zhou Mingwang, a businessman in Yiwu, as saying.

Cheap imitation rings have also flown off shop shelves in Brazil, reports said.

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