Shares of Costa Mesa’s Ceradyne Inc. jumped on Tuesday after the company reported first quarter financials that beat Wall Street expectations and raised its guidance for the rest of the year.

Ceradyne, a maker of bulletproof vests and other products, saw shares surge 9% in midday New York trading on a market value of about $1.2 billion.

The company reported sales of $150 million, up 36% from a year earlier. Profits topped $23.6 million, up from $5 million a year ago.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $16.2 million on sales of $139 million.

The strong quarterly performance, new orders and a large backlog of contracts led the company to boost its 2011 guidance to a profit of $77 million to $87 million on sales of $570 million to $600 million.

Prior guidance issued in March had profits in the range of $58 million to $67 million on sales between $505 million and $560 million.

“We are extremely pleased with Ceradyne's first quarter performance. Almost all areas reflected an excellent start to 2011,” said Ceradyne President and Chief Executive Joel Moskowitz. “These Q1 results and a cautiously optimistic outlook for the balance of 2011 are the basis for increasing our 2011 guidance."

New orders for the first quarter hit $231.7 million, up 119% from a year earlier. Total backlog orders were $267.4 million, up 104%.

Gross profit margin was 38.7% of net sales in the first quarter, up from 23.1% a year ago.

Ceradyne has been working on a long-running diversification after seeing a boom in sales of its military armor during the peak of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Body armor sales now are about 40% of Ceradyne’s sales, down from nearly 70% a few years ago.

The company makes ceramics that are used in body armor, truck parts, dental products and other applications.

Analysts on average are expecting about a $16 million profit on sales of $132 million in the next quarter.