How to buy jewelry at a pawnshop

I see lots of gold at pawnshops (is it one word?? I looked on a couple of sites from How Stuff Works to some state sites and they all say things like Bring an Appraiser with you. Huh? Do I hire someone? Would it be worth it?

If not how do I know what I get a pawnshop isn’t garbage?

You don’t. If you are looking for bargains, ask around at reputable jewelers. Many of them buy and sell jewelry on consignment.

In one of my past lives, I worked at a pawnshop - a very reputable one, I might add. We had gold and diamond testers on site, we could tell the difference between 10, 14, and 18/24 KT gold, and we could tell if a diamond was real or fake by several tests, which all employees were instructed in before even being let loose on the floor.

The other thing about our shop, that I would advise you to look for, is a liberal return policy. We had a 30 day money back guarantee on all items, no questions asked. If a customer was hesitant about purchasing a piece of jewelry, we would 1) perform gold and diamond tests in front of them and 2) advise them of our policy regarding returns. We were located across the street from a major mall which had 4 jewelry stores in it. We would tell them to buy the piece, take it to the mall across the street, and have one of the jewelers there look at it and appraise it. If they felt they had made a bad deal with us, they were more than welcome to bring the item back for a full refund.

In the year or so I was with them, I only had one customer return his purchase for a refund, and that was because the girl he asked to marry him said no.

Make sure the shop is reputable and has a good return policy, and you should be fine. There are some great bargains to be found in pawnshops.

If you buy something be sure to ask what they would pay for it in a year if you bring it in. Between The price you pay & the price they would give you is a spread. I always look at the spread first. The guy I deal with who just has a buy/sell silver/AU shop charges about 60 cents per oz above the daily market rate. That is an acceptable spread to me, cause if I bring it back, he would take 60 cents per oz for silver above the new market rate. So I could actually make some money next year.

With all due respect, DO NOT take QED’s advice.

I work in the jewelry industry and the markup at jewelry stores (even on a “good deal”) is INSANE. Those super-low, lowest-of-the-year sale prices… Still 100% markup from their cost. The “regular” price (known as the “idiot” price in the industry) is often 250% markup from cost. Most jewelry stores will readily give you 30% off regular price if you ask: called the “discretionary discount”… But you’re still getting raped.

Having said that, you have to know your stuff to buy at a pawn shop. Assuming you’re looking for diamond jewelry (otherwise ignore), you need to know how to examine a diamond under a loupe and know the different characteristics. One of the most important is the quality of the cut, which is the hardest to determine without a GIA report…
You should know stuff like this:

The clarity grades of diamonds are:

F (flawless)
IF (internally flawless)
VVS1 (very, very slight inclusions)
VS1 (very slight inclusions)
SI1 (slight inclusions)

Here’s the key thing: by definition, NONE of the grades above have any eye-visible flaws. The “inclusions” (flaws) mentioned above are using a 10x loupe. Below these are the “I” (included) grades where you can see flaws. My advice is generally to buy an SI1 or SI2 stone. If you can’t see the difference with your naked eye, why pay for it.

Below these grades are the “I” grades (included). You don’t want these. They belong in the end of an oil-drill bit, not in jewelry.

So here’s the MOST COMMON scam… Someone shows you an “SI1” diamond in which you can see some spots with your naked eye. THEY ARE LYING TO YOU.

Of course, cut quality is far more important than clarity… But I’m not going to write a novel here. Check out and similar sites which have TONS of info.

Bottom line: You can get GREAT deals at pawn shops! If I wasn’t in a position to buy jewelry at the source, that’s probably where I’d go. You can also get royally screwed. The difference is simply knowing what you’re talking about…

All of Mrs. Blue Sky’s jewelry came from a pawn shop. Most while I still worked at one and the rest after I left. Pawn shops have another advantage over jewlery stores other than price: Variety. You’d be surprised at the wide range of styles. Some old, some new.

One more tip: most pawn shops will have a price code on their price tags. It’s usually a one or two word phrase with each letter representing the digits 0-9. The code usually tells the pawn shop employee how much money the shop has in the piece, be it jewelry or whatever. If you look at enough tags and record all the different letters, you should be able to figure the code. Don’t let on that you know and you COULD use it to your advantage.

I should mention that I buy from a scrap dealer…

DrLizardo is correct. I do consulting work for a manufacturer who sells to national chains as well as independent stores. The mark-up on most items is 250%. The wife and I recently bought a ring at wholesale pricing and gave it to her mother. My in-laws think I’m the greatest son-in-law to walk on earth.

What about gold and platinum. I can see on it, it says 14K or 18K but is it real?

Well, platinum will never say 14K or 18K. From this website:

A stamp on a gold piece is a fairly good indication, as long as there is not the dreaded letters HGE (Heavy Gold Electroplate) or GF (Gold Filled) after the designation. The letter P is a good thing, as in 14KP. It does not stand for plated, rather it stands for pure or plumb. See, a piece stamped 14K can legally be anywhere between 13K and 15K (if I remember my classes correctly). However, if it’s stamped 14KP, it MUST be exactly 14K. This mostly occurs with older pieces, however.

However, like I said in the previous post, make sure there is a written return policy, and take the piece to a reputable jeweler immediately for checking. Any reputable shop will have such a policy.

We have a nice jewelry supply store. I once asked them if I could buy some of their old used AU stampers & they showed me a basket of them. So its pretty easy to buy a metal stamper & you put it on the ring & hit with a small hammer & presto, it says 14k. That’s probably why you should get a metal testing kit, but I don’t know if most dealers want you to scratch their rings on the plate to test.