Everything comes with a pros and cons list, and jewelry specialty pawn shops are no exception.
These shops can be a great choice when you’re searching for secondhand rings, necklaces, watches, or other luxury items. However, you may also find they don’t always outperform general pawn shops or professional jewelry stores.
Should you pay one a visit? Let’s take a look.
Since they only deal in jewelry, these specialty shops will have a much wider selection of options and styles. You won’t have to go from pawn store to pawn store in the hopes of finding something you like that also fits your budget.
Cheaper than Jewelry Stores
The nature of secondhand lends itself to cheaper prices. Pawn shops, even though they might raise the price enough to make a small profit, don’t mark up their items as much as retailers do – just for the luxury of owning something first.
Doesn’t Support the Jewelry Industry
There are plenty of reasons you may not want to support the jewelry industry, from their unreasonable markup on diamonds to their labor practices. But that leaves a common problem: Where do you find jewelry if you dislike the industry as a whole?
The good thing about secondhand jewelry is that none of the profits go to the original company, so your money won’t be used to support the practice of making new jewelry.
Reusing is always better than recycling. Whenever something doesn’t have to go through the process of being picked apart, melted down, and remade, the world benefits. Why wait for something to be recycled just to have something new, when you can get something cheaper with history and a unique flair?
Lack of Expertise
Though pawn shop owners may take several precautions in identifying jewelry, so as to sell them correctly, the fact remains: they are not a trained jeweler and can make mistakes. You can ask for verification of their claims, but they’re not obligated to provide a certified jeweler just to sate your curiosity or calm your nerves; that can be very expensive.
Slightly Pricier than Normal Pawn Shops
Because they handle objects of higher value, they have a few more expenses to pay than a typical pawn shop. This ranges from specialized equipment to higher security and specialized casing. They may also have higher insurance premiums and deductibles, due to the nature of what they sell. These factors can raise the prices at least a little when compared to general pawn shops.
Sellers Don’t Benefit More
For people looking to pawn their jewelry, a jewelry-only pawn shop doesn’t always mean a better deal. If you sell to a proper jewelry store, you’re likely to find a better profit on your items. Most of the benefits go to the pawn shop and the new buyers, instead of to the people taking out a loan or selling their goods. A jewelry-only pawn shop might be more likely to take more expensive items, but that’s about the extent of the benefits.
Craigslist has become very popular as a digital place to sell and buy used goods for the last 24 years, but there are plenty of reasons to stick with a traditional brick and mortar pawn shop.
Looking to sell? Then here’s why you should choose a pawn shop.
Whether it’s Craigslist or a pawn shop, you’re expected to haggle and negotiate. However, you’re far more likely to come out on top at a pawn shop. To the buyer on Craigslist, you’re trying to get rid of your stuff, and to the pawn shop owner, you’re relinquishing your sellable goods. When you negotiate with a Craigslist buyer, the situation also comes with the cost-sunk fallacy.
Avoiding the Cost-Sunk Fallacy
Typically, negotiations for a Craigslist listing happen while you’re meeting (likely in a public place, such as a store’s parking lot) and, at that point, you’ve already driven out to meet them half-way. They expect you to sell even if it’s a little less than what you want. In this situation, they’re probably the only person that corresponded or the only one that followed through. You’ll feel that getting selling your stuff now is better than having to go through the process all over again.
With a pawn shop, you can take your stuff away and go on to the next pawn shop in hopes for a better deal, and the owner knows this. If they really like what you’re selling, they’ll offer you a better price if you’re not yet satisfied with the number you’ve been given.
While there are many legitimate buyers and sellers on Craigslist, the anonymity of the digital interface lends itself well to scammers and theft. As a seller, you may not run into as many problems as a buyer might, but your potential buyers might insist on giving you a bad check, attempt to run off with your stuff, or meet at a sketchy location.
Don’t Wait for a Buyer
With a pawn shop, you don’t have to wait for the right person that wants what you’re selling. Though the pawn shop does take a bit of the cut, it pays for itself by removing the hassle of waiting, checking your email, and corresponding with someone that might just ghost you at the end of it anyway.
Selling Niche Goods
Depending on what you’re selling, the target audience you’re looking for might not be looking around your area’s Craigslist. On top of that, it’s a difficult platform to sort through and your ad could get buried under plenty of newer ones if you’re not proactive in re-listing every so often.
Buyers at pawn shops can call ahead and ask for particular items, making it a lot easier to find a specific item – especially if they have to expand their radius far out of their own city in order to find it. If you think your stuff might appeal to a smaller audience, don’t wait on Craigslist for those people to randomly find your ad.
Quality jewelry is expensive, and the issue is made even worse by jewelry stores. By now, it’s common knowledge to most people that diamonds aren’t as rare as they’re made out to be. Yet, their price tag hardly seems to reflect that fact.
Other than superstition or social pressure, there’s nothing wrong in buying a secondhand engagement ring. Think about it for a second. If every couple had a brand new engagement ring and no one ever bought secondhand, we’d have an abundance of engagement rings being melted down or scrapped as parts.
If you’re environmentally conscious, you’ll know that it’s better to reuse than to recycle. So, here’s how to buy an engagement ring responsibly.
Engagement rings that are no longer used or wanted (unless they’re sent off to be scrapped or passed on to family) tend to find their way to pawn shops.
Sometimes this isn’t for positive reasons, such as someone defaulting on a loan where they offered their ring as collateral. However, it could also be that family members have sold it after a loved one passed away.
Whatever the reason, a ring found at the pawn shop is almost always cheaper than one bought on consignment from a jeweler.
Find a Specialist
If possible, try to find a pawn shop that specializes in jewelry. Often times, these places make sure to carefully verify the nature of any and all items they have.
If the items are set up as collateral, this ensures the shop won’t be scammed and that the ring is properly cared for.
As a bonus to you, the rings you shop for here are guaranteed as quality, and the shop knows exactly what they’re worth – which is accurately reflected in the price. On one hand, you may not find a hidden treasure going for pennies, but you also won’t buy a cheap ring that’s overpriced.
While it’s typically more expensive to buy from a jeweler than a pawn shop, it can give peace of mind to those who are worried about getting bamboozled.
However, that peace of mind isn’t always cheap. While secondhand stores and jewelry consignment stores are cheaper than buying new jewelry, they often employ more highly trained staff. Additionally, they may have more security, as their whole shop is full of jewelry as opposed to the smaller jewelry collection of a pawn shop. These kinds of additional expenses can reflect in the price tag of the jewelry.
Overall, any of these options are much cheaper than buying from a jewelry store. It’s similar to how buying a used car is always significantly cheaper than buying a new car.
The “Poor Man’s Engagement Ring”
If you’re uncomfortable buying secondhand, there is (what some people refer to as) the “poor man’s engagement ring.” This is comprised of a sterling silver band with a synthetic (or “created”) sapphire. The price tag can hover somewhere around $200, depending on where you buy it.
Though the concept of a diamond engagement ring isn’t as expected in modern days, there’s no shame in hiding the fact that you bought or own a white sapphire instead of a diamond. Most people will never know the difference.
Most people have a good idea of what a pawn shop is, but there are subtle variations to the concept as a whole. This includes online pawn shops, specialty pawn shops, pawn shops that offer auto title loans, and more.
Which is right for you?
Here’s everything you should know about different pawn shop types.
Generalist Pawn Shops
When most people hear the term ‘pawn shop,’ they typically imagine a non-descript building with an assortment of items randomly strewn about on shelves or standing on their own along the floor. They can often feel a little cluttered, depending on the shop and how they run it. However, they can also inspire a bit of adventure in looking to see what hidden treasures wait to be found.
This is known as a generalist pawn shop. As the name implies, they sell a general assortment of items – ranging from expensive and deluxe, to average and unexciting. If you’re looking to browse for interesting items or household objects, a generalist pawn shop has you covered.
These pawn shops buy and sell items, as well as offer loans with items used as collateral. If the loan isn’t paid in time, the collateral is kept and sold.
Online Pawn Shops
Online pawn shops vary only slightly from the typical kind. They function similarly, but allow customers to conduct business from their homes. Whether it’s to sell or offer an item as collateral, the customer will ship the item and receive their payment or loan if the sale/loan is approved.
Items collected by these shops will then be showcased online to potential buyers, similar to any other e-commerce website. This allows for pawn shops to keep up with the online shift of retail and cut back on expenses (such as a store front). Buyers may also appreciate an easier way to browse through a pawn shop’s content.
Specialty Pawn Shops
Most pawn shops take any item as collateral for a loan, but, occasionally you’ll find pawn shops that have a specialty. Generally, the owner is an expert or they employ an expert in a certain field to verify the legitimacy of items.
This is often seen with jewelry. Why? Because it takes special tools and a trained eye to tell real from fake, or natural from synthetic.
You may also find the occasional gun, classic car, or antique pawn shop. These varieties are more popular in larger cities, which can support such specific pursuits.
Auto Title Loans
Pawn shops are very different from banks when it comes to passing out loans. Customers don’t need a credit score to secure a loan – just something to offer as collateral.
An auto title loan from a pawn shop is like taking out a second mortgage on a house, where you place your car up for collateral, but you can continue to own and use it.
This can be appealing to those without many valuable items. However, it has the downside of potentially losing your mode of transportation if you default on the loan.
Buying secondhand jewelry can be more interesting and fiscally responsible than buying new jewelry.
Though not a one-to-one comparison, it’s like buying a used car: the price of being new is marked up by the company and often not reflective of the actual value.
But there are more factors than just price when buying secondhand!
Are you in search of more bling? Then here are other great reasons to check out antique stores, pawn shops, or jewelry stores that sell secondhand.
A Better Deal
There’s this prevalent idea in modern culture that the value of jewelry is reflected in its price. So, obviously, if the jewelry is cheap, then the quality is poor. Right?
Not true! Buying secondhand jewelry from a pawn shop, thrift store, garage sale, or other kind of secondhand seller shouldn’t be viewed as a lesser way of purchasing jewelry.
Because they’re older (and sometimes less desired than certain modern designs), the price gets significantly marked down. A similar item at a jewelry store could be much cheaper at a pawn shop. If you’re looking for a wedding ring, a gift, or something for yourself, a good piece of jewelry doesn’t have to break the bank.
Sustainable and Ecofriendly
Not all jewelry can be or should be melted down and recycled into new jewelry. Because it’s made with precious and semi-precious resources, it can last quite a while and will end up in a store to be sold again.
Buying these older pieces (instead of putting in the energy and resources to melt them down to make something new) is much more environmentally friendly for the world-conscientious consumer.
Additionally, buying secondhand jewelry allows someone to buy jewelry without supporting the companies that strip-mine or provide poor working conditions for miners, like the mining of “blood diamonds.”
Though there’s a chance that a piece bought secondhand was made by a company that dealt in these practices, they don’t get a cut of the sale when resold. So, you wouldn’t be actively supporting them.
Jewelry goes through fashion cycles, just like clothes and hair styles do. This means that certain a style of jewelry can go out of fashion in jewelry stores. To find something a little more unique or not currently available in stores, buying secondhand increases the variety of pieces to choose from.
Additionally, many of these older pieces bring with them this aura of history, depending on how old they are.
Another term for secondhand (depending on age and perhaps a few other arbitrary factors) can be “antique.” Antique can describe your grandmother’s wedding ring or a locket found in a trunk dating back to the American Civil War.
Not all antique pieces need history to them, though it can be romantic and fun to know the history of a piece that has traveled the years. It’s maybe been around longer than you have! This added value can make a wedding ring or congratulatory set of earrings all the more meaningful.
If you’re in the market for a pawn shop, it can help to take time out of your day to research the places you’re interested in. This helps avoid bad deals and negative experiences.
Whether this is your first time using a pawn shop or, as a frequent shopper, you want to take another look at their local pawn shops, anyone can benefit from a few simple methods of vetting these businesses.
Here are the best strategies:
Online reviews can be a helpful tool in figuring out which pawn shops are best.
Reviews often swing towards the negative, as most people will only leave a review if something has bothered or offended them, so these should be taken with a grain of salt.
However, an abundance of positive reviews can provide a good look at the pawn shop. After all, it must’ve been a very positive experience if people were inspired to review.
To be extra sure the reviews are authentic, go ahead and check out the accounts that have posted them. If the account has multiple reviews posted across businesses in the area, then you can trust they have a good understanding of what’s quality and sub-quality in the community. If they have only one review, the experience was likely exceptional enough to warrant their time. If they post scarcely and in different writing styles, you may have cause for concern.
Look for a Website or Social Media Presence
Not all pawn shops will have a personal website. However, most will have an online presence besides a Yelp page, whether it’s their own website or a social media presence on Facebook or Twitter. How they interact with people online can be a telling sign of how they operate their business. For example, are they willing to compromise in order to see you walk away happy?
Avoid pawn shops that fight with their customers online about their experiences. You don’t want to deal with a business that makes you feel bad about having a poor experience, or who is unwilling to give ground in order to satisfy the customer.
Call the Pawn Shop
Though it’s a little unconventional, you can always call ahead and speak with the employees to see if they’re up to your standards. Ask them questions about their business and how to go about selling, buying, or pawning an item for a loan. If you have plans to sell or pawn objects, ask what you need to bring or what additional information they want about the item. If you’re trying to buy something, ask as many questions about the item as possible.
If they’re willing to help you out, then they want your business and are typically willing to give you a good deal. This is a sign of a quality pawn shop: one that wants your business, wants you to walk away happy, and wants you to return with more business. Anything less should make you second-guess visiting their location.
Should you clean and polish your jewelry before selling it?
The simple answer is yes. This practice is similar to cleaning your house or decorating it nicely to show off to potential buyers. People want to see its best form prior to buying it. In the case of pawning off jewelry, doing the grunt work yourself and presenting your valuables in their best condition may help you get a better deal.
However, it’s not always the best choice. Depending on what the jewelry is made of, how old it is, and if you’re unsure of how to properly clean it, you may need to leave it to the experts. A professional clean might cost extra, but that can pay for itself by avoiding damage to your jewelry and receiving a better price when you sell it.
How can you tell the difference? What is the best way to clean your jewelry? Let’s take a look.
Jewelry Cleaning Basics
While it can’t replace a professional cleaning, there are some ways to clean your jewelry at home.
Pure gold doesn’t tarnish, but most gold jewelry isn’t pure gold due to its soft and bendable nature. The other metals that gold is mixed with to become stronger do tarnish, like copper, silver, and iron. The lower karat of gold the jewelry is, the more likely it is to darken with tarnish from the other elements in its alloy.
Silver is known to tarnish, which is why silver polish is easily accessible! Some polishes come in kits with wipes and/or soft cloths. Be sure to research any polish before you buy it, checking the user reviews and seeing if they accomplish what they promise.
Though you can clean silver at home without manually polishing, this should only be done if you know what you’re doing and have performed extensive research into the process of performing a DIY polish. With added or extra steps, beyond using a tried and true polish, you’re at greater risk of messing something up. This is extra important if your silver jewelry contains gemstones.
For most gemstones, you need only wash them with warm, soapy water and then clean with a soft, bristled toothbrush or a fine, soft cloth.
Take care to be gentle around the areas where the gemstone connects to the ring, necklace, or other form of jewelry. The prongs holding it in place may become damaged if brushed too thoroughly.
For organic gems like peals and amber, it’s recommended you do not use water or soap to clean them. Instead, use a soft cloth (a microfiber cloth is preferred) to wipe away any dirt or dust.
If you want to polish the jewelry around the organic gemstone, it’s best to take it to a professional. You need to prevent the organic gemstone from coming into contact with any soapy water or polish, so that detailed form of work is best handled by expert hands.
What does it mean to have a ten karat gold ring or a pair of seven karat gold earrings? Why is twenty-four the maximum number of karats anyone can have?
It all has to do with alloys, a chemical blend of different elements.
Gold isn’t strong enough to function as jewelry on its own. The softness of gold plays into the old act of biting coins to see if they’d bend, as most other metals aren’t soft enough when a moderate amount of force is applied. To make up for that, most (if not all) gold jewelry is a blend of other metals – which is called an alloy.
So, what does that mean for karats? Let’s dive in.
Alloys and Their Karats
Yellow gold often has few other elements in the alloy, allowing the color from the gold to shine on its own without diluting it too much. As a result, a stronger yellow color is likely to yield a higher karat.
White gold is an alloy mixed more often with silver, though sometimes you’ll find percentages of nickel, zinc, palladium, and/or platinum.
Rose gold is commonly made using copper and other stronger metals, like silver or platinum, as copper is also a relatively soft metal.
Pure gold is not an alloy, but rarely is even twenty-four karat gold “pure” on a chemical level. For those that own twenty-four karat gold jewelry, there will be minute traces of other elements that are unavoidable and extremely difficult to remove. Because they are such low percentages, often less than a percent or two, it is the purest gold that is possible.
Karats and Gold Purity
Understanding alloys provides what you need to understand karats. The purity of gold is measured on a scale up to twenty-four. This refers specifically to how many parts of the composition is gold. For instance, a twelve karat gold ring is twelve parts gold; the remaining twelve parts are a combination of silver, platinum, copper, zinc, and so on.
The Twenty-Four Karat System
But why is the method of counting karats on a scale of twenty-four instead of twenty-five (which is more easily divisible in a percentage system)?
Though the origin of the karat concept is open to historical interpretation, the use of the twenty-four system allows for naturally occurring impurities. In short, there’s more leeway, as each karat now represents slightly more than a twenty-five system would have.
Most rings will have an engraving on the inside to represent the metal’s quality. Often, you’ll find it notated with a number from one to twenty-four (though you’ll rarely see a twenty-four karat ring) and a “K” or “KT.” For example, a twelve karat ring may be marked “12K.”
However, not all jewelry will be marked. Earrings, for example, are typically smaller, so engraving the metal would either result in a too-small mark or damage to the jewelry. To understand the karat value, you’d have to seek a professional assessment.
Though gold is always more valuable per ounce than silver, occasionally, silver is the better option. Why?
Mainly, because it’s cheaper. Not everything that could use gold needs to use gold, when something similar and less expensive can do the job.
What are other cases where silver beats gold?
Silver is so strong that, sometimes, gold needs silver mixed in to make it able to withstand use. As an anti-bacterial metal, it’s often used over other metals to create gold alloys.
Silver is also used to solder and braze other metals, providing them with stable and firm joints in a variety of settings, from electronics to jewelry.
Silver can further be used simply to match the color or metal of the object being soldered. However, its strength always provides the additional benefit of stability.
Besides being a personal preference of color, silver is extremely popular in jewelry for its relative cheapness as a precious metal. This makes it easier for those with metal allergies, or metal hypersensitivity, to wear relatively inexpensive jewelry, so long as what they buy is pure silver and not sterling silver, which is a silver alloy.
Likewise, silver won’t oxidize and turn skin green, nor will it cumulate bacteria that can cause infections. For those that get piercings, silver is a great alternative for a safe piercing that doesn’t break the bank.
Once used in the construction of mirrors, due to its incredibly reflective nature, silver is now used in lining spacecrafts to protect inhabitants from the sun! Likewise, silver is often used in skyscrapers and other buildings to coat the windows and help them avoid heating up.
Silver functionally replaces the need for shade, as it reflects instead of absorbing heat or light. In space, unless you’re flying right behind a planet or other orbital body, you’re going to constantly be in view of the sun, which would heat you up continuously! This makes silver an absolute necessity under our harsh star.
Gold is used in many electronics as a conductor, since gold does not tarnish. However, the electronic industry and the world’s gold supply couldn’t survive by only using gold!
Silver is also the world’s most conductive metal, making it a more efficient form of travel for electricity. Unfortunately, silver tarnish can affect the overall conductive nature of the metal and would need constant upkeep, but, with a bit of maintenance every now and then, it can still perform at its best.
You often hear of people buying gold or silver coins as investments against economic collapse. Another tactic is trying to play the market by buying at their lowest and cashing in when the price peaks.
Whatever the reason, many prefer to buy silver coins over gold bullions, as they are much, much more affordable and require less money to start developing a collection. People can buy small sets of silver coins when they feel they can afford them, as opposed to shaving off a bit of gold every now and then.
Whether you’re going to shop or to pawn off an item for a loan, it’s good practice to know how to identify quality pawnshops from the bad.
But what makes a quality pawnshop?
Often, it has to do with integrity, a keen eye, and customer service. After all, a good pawnshop is one that inspires trust, knows what they’re doing, and wants to maintain a lasting and positive relationship with their customers.
A good pawnshop researches the items brought to them, whether it’s for a loan or to outright sell it.
A poor pawnshop may take any electronic offered to sell it at a discount, whether or not it works. This can be frustrating for people that come in and expect to buy items that actually work.
Being able to go in and trust the items you buy is crucial. As such, their quality assurance is a good sign that the pawnshop knows what they’re doing and is going to provide a fair deal.
If a pawnshop knows they’re going to rip someone off, they often don’t care too much about the people that come in to buy, sell, or take out a loan. Keep an eye on their customer service and see how invested they are in making sure you walk away with a positive experience. This can range from how they greet you as you enter and how willing they are to walk you through each step of the process.
Quality shops will make people feel safe and welcome when they’re either pawning off their own possessions or looking for something to buy. It’s a business’s way of telling customers that they care about your experience and want it to be a positive one.
If you walk into a pawnshop and no one greats you, or they’re trying to rush you along, don’t be afraid to back out of a deal and try the next one!
The best way to tell if a pawnshop is of any quality is to take to the internet! Though you can’t always believe what you read online, reviews are excellent for getting an idea of a business and how they operate.
Take reviews with a grain of salt, however, as people are more likely to review a business if they’ve had a negative experience than if they’ve had a positive one. If a pawnshop has just as many positive reviews as negative ones, it’s likely that more people have walked away with a positive experience.
If a pawnshop only has negative reviews, see how many reviews there are in total. Only a couple? Probably no need to worry, especially if the dates are spaced out. If it’s a lot, then they have a consistent set of problems that have gone unaddressed.
Lastly, trust your gut when reading reviews. If you find that a review is reasonably steering you clear of a bad situation, you’re under no obligation to give the pawnshop a chance.