Ceradyne, which manufactures body armor in Lexington, announced quarterly earnings Tuesday that soared year over year.

Overall sales for the third quarter were $148 million, up 61.3 percent from $91.8 million in the same period a year ago. The company, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., earned $20.4 million, or 82 cents a share. That’s more than quadruple last year’s $4.5 million, or 18 cents a share.

“Of particular interest and excitement were our new orders and backlog,” chief executive officer Joel P. Moskowitz told analysts during a morning conference call. He said new orders in the quarter were $272 million, well more than double the $110.8 million in the same period last year. Total backlog at the end of September was $354.9 million, up from last year’s $136.3 million in the same quarter.

Revenue from external customers for Ceradyne’s Advanced Ceramic Operations division, which includes Lexington’s operations, was up more than 161 percent year over year, to $74 million in the quarter. The segment had struggled in the past but recently received another boost when the military approved a $127 million contract for ESAPI ceramic body armor to be delivered in 2012.

“It may not be clear that the contract … actually is a one-year plus two options, and we believe based on non-binding verbal discussions with the government that they will exercise those options,” Moskowitz said. “And it will probably be in the same ballpark as we see for 2012.”