During the second half of 2008, Diamonds Direct, a retail store in Charlotte, N.C., opened two new locations—in Raleigh, N.C., and Birmingham, Ala.—as part of an ambitious campaign to capitalize on secondary markets that are home to universities or capitols. The timing, as most people know by now, was not ideal. “It was right before the world collapsed,” says Itay Berger, president. (He co-owns Diamonds Direct with Alon Arabov, an Israeli diamantaire who is the majority shareholder.) Against all odds, however, the retailer weathered the financial crisis with surprising aplomb.