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Diamonds are Dolly's best friend on Oscar night

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): In a sure sign that the Academy Awards have become even more glitzy, glamorous and bling-laden than ever, even down-to-earth country star Dolly Parton will be sporting diamonds this year.

Tennessee-born Parton is ''not a diamond girl,'' usually opting instead for costume jewellery while in the spotlight, said her long-time designer and stylist Robert Behar.

But that will change on Sunday, as Parton retires the cheap stuff in favor of dripping diamonds as she walks the red carpet and performs her Oscar-nominated song ''Travelin' Thru'' from the film ''Transamerica.'' ''I told her it's the Oscars; she had to wear it,'' Behar said. ''It's the Oscars -- we're going with the real thing!'' Diamonds are the best friend of many celebrities at the Academy Awards, where the glittering stones will be set in more unusual ways this year, bedecking the arms, ears and hairdos of the who's-who of Tinseltown.

Stars searching for the ultimate in show-stopping glamour have been courted this pre-Oscar week as diamond designers showcase the classic stones updated with modern looks.

''Everyone in L A is cynical and spoiled and seen it all,'' said Sally Morrison, director of The Diamond Information Center, who said a 70 million dollar display of diamonds at an invitation-only diamond event in the Hollywood Hills this week allows jaded celebrities to view the latest styles they can borrow for the big Oscar night.

Celebrity guests, including Felicity Huffman, Teri Hatcher and Demi Moore, ogled displays of diamonds overlooking a grotto-style pool with views of Los Angeles below.

Rose-cut diamonds adorned a thick Rajasthani-style necklace by Indian designer Munnu for The Gem Palace, who also showed an elaborate ring of a gold bird carrying a small diamond in its beak.

Diamonds in the shape of a serpent also encrusted a Fred Leighton wood bangle, while New York-based VBH used small black diamonds to create avant-garde Goth-inspired looks.

Young actresses ''are wearing more sophisticated pieces in more avant-garde ways,'' Morrison said, in their hair or in mixed-media pieces that don't look overdone. The trick, she said, is not to look ''too blinged out.'' That's the risk faced by the wearer of a 30 million dollar diamond bikini on display by designer Susan Rosen, seen recently within the pages of Sports Illustrated.

Despite its beauty, the swimsuit is sadly impractical, Morrison said. ''The only way to wear it is with a lot of security.'' For her part, Parton will be bedecked in vintage diamonds from designer Fred Leighton, including a rare cut of tear-drop earrings and a diamond bow on her hip. As for Parton's dress, Behar said it will be ''pastel, very feminine, as usual, and very Dolly.'' 

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