Would You Buy An Engagement Ring At A Pawn Shop?

Congratulations! You’ve finally found a girl who is willing to put up with all your quirks and foibles. She doesn’t mind that you fart in bed or the fact you enjoy a lot of onions on your burger. She consistently laughs at your jokes, even though they’re terrible. For some reason, she’s crazy about you, and she keeps dropping hints that she wants to make the relationship more permanent. You’d better put a ring on that, and pronto, before she figures out what an unappealing person you are.

So, like any good prospective husband, you head on down to the jewellery store, probably one in the local mall. The nicely dressed lady starts showing you engagement rings, and starts talking about how you’re supposed to spend 3 months salary on your special lady. Like any enterprising personal finance type person, you’re balking at the price. Does that 3 month rule apply to gross income or net income? I bet I know what the jewellery store employee would say.

Nuts to this you say, I’m not spending all that cash. You start to look for other options and while driving around, you spot a pawn shop. The proverbial light bulb goes off above your head, and you head inside. The shelves are filled with all sorts of jewellery given to ladies during happier times. You glance down at the prices, and notice that most of the jewellery is about half the price of the jewellery store. It all looks the same quality as at the store, and the guy behind the counter guarantees you’re buying the same karats.

Do you risk getting your sweetheart pawn shop jewellery to save a few bucks? First, the pros:

Better Value

Buying used jewellery is going to get you more bang for your buck, for sure. Let’s assume you’re looking to spend $5,000 on an engagement ring, since you’re kind of a high roller like that. You can either buy a pretty nice ring at the mall, or a really nice ring at a pawn shop. Your lady is going to get a decent sized rock if you decide to go the pawn shop route.

Reducing Your Support Of The Diamond Industry

If you want some interesting reading, spend some time researching the diamond industry. For the sake of brevity, I’ll sum it up in one paragraph for you.

De Beers basically controls the entire industry. The South African giant used to mine a full 80% of the world’s supply, often using questionable labor methods. They have since reduced their influence, but the industry is still remarkably concentrated. Over 90% of mined diamonds are cut in one city in India. Diamonds are one of the only precious metals that doesn’t have a fixed price. A company is able to sell a diamond for many times what it costs to extract it. Most diamonds are mined in Africa, where De Beers has forced local governments to relocate tribes to accommodate their mines. Needless to say, it’s a cutthroat industry.

If you buy a diamond that’s already been used, you’re minimizing your role in supporting De Beers and their questionable business practices.

Now, time for the negatives. This isn’t all just sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

It’s Used

We all have our limits when it comes to buying used stuff. Some people are comfortable buying used clothes, others aren’t. Most everyone is comfortable buying a used car, but there are still some people out there who insist on buying a car that hasn’t been owned by somebody else. I actually know a guy who has no problem buying used underwear at the thrift store. He may or may not be related to me.

Your lady may not be comfortable wearing jewellery that has already been worn by someone else. You could always lie and say it’s brand new, but that has the potential of ending really badly. If you do that, make sure they’re no inscription.

You Might Get Ripped Off

I don’t want to say all pawn guys are kind of shifty, because they’re not. Heck, most of them are probably really honest. Saying that, if I were to guess where I’d be ripped off – a pawn shop or a jewellery store – I’d probably pick the pawn shop. There’s a certain stigma attached to the industry. You could always take your new piece to a jeweller and get it appraised, but he’s probably going to charge you for the privilege.

The Big Question

It’s time for both genders to weigh in on this one. I’m mostly interested in what the ladies think. Would the ladies reading be okay with an engagement ring from a pawn shop? Fellas, would you try to stretch your engagement dollar by getting her a used ring?

SPF: The Mrs. SPF wears was a hand me down.  From my great grandmother to grandmother to mother to Mrs. SPF.  She wrote about it here: sustainable wedding rings.

71 comments to Would You Buy An Engagement Ring At A Pawn Shop?

  • I would if I had someone to coach me through he process, even if it was via a good book. I think one concern is getting ripped off. Also, I think that this won’t work for every girl.

  • I’d not be too concerned if the boy got my ring at a pawnshop. As long as it looks like new.. although then again, who knows why that ring is in the pawn shop, so maybe I wouldn’t be too pleased.

  • I think it would be easy to get ripped off. How am I supposed to be able to tell the difference between a diamond and cubic zirconia? Also, I have some issues surrounding pawn shops themselves. I appreciate the fact that they can help people get money that they need for other things but it seems so sad to think that some people may be heartbroken to have had to sell the very ring that you are buying. Plus stolen jewellery can be sold in pawn shops. I would have trouble enjoying a ring that someone else might be heartbroken not to have.

  • Julie

    Reduce, recycle, re-use. Provided we could be sure we’re not getting stiffed, I am more than fine with having a pawn shop ring, or one from eBay or used from some other source. I see paying for an appraisal as a good investment, since I’d want to insure it.

    Spare me the sentimentality of someone’s possibly broken heart. People are destroyed in diamond mining. Watch the documentaries. No shop stewards, no grievances. Just brutality and slave wages.

    We are brilliantly diverted from considering the insanity inflicted on people (and the earth) to provide us with a shiny new ring. Reduce, recycle, re-use.

  • I wear a hand-me-down ring, too. The fru-gal in me would like to say that I’d be cool with a pawn shop ring, but I probably wouldn’t. I’d rather have a small rock (mine is small – I’m not big on bling) or even a laboratory-made rock. These are becoming more and more prevalent, and they’re a third of the price.

    • Nelson Smith

      Hand-me-downs: the ultimate frugal solution.

      • As I noted @ the end of your article Nelson, Mrs. SPF is wearing the same ring my great grandmother did. The stone is very small – but most were during the Great Depression. The back story is that my Great Grandpa had a job – full time – which was rare. A fellow he knew had to sell the ring to feed his family. My GG Pa bought it – but gave the fellow 2x what he was asking. He then put it on the finger of my GG GM who was 18 yrs old @ the time. They were married until my GG GM passed away.

  • No. First, as Roshawn pointed out there is danger that the ring will not be genuine. And then, I would hate to wear the ring of someone who has pawned it. In fact, we did buy a ring from a ‘normal’ shop and had to change it because I decided it brings me bad luck. Silly, I know, but I had such a bad run I was taking no chances.

  • I am thinking – no. Just because it is used and I would not be sure that it is real. Also, if someone pawned it, they probably have a real sad story behind it and … I would keep thinking about it all the time. Definitely would not buy it.

  • I would not buy a pawned diamond, but what about a Canadian diamond?

  • Three months salary is one of the most wealth destroying yet brilliant advertising campaigns ever!

    Really, as practical as a pawn shop purchase might be, it’s probably going to bother the female in many cases.

  • cheri

    I most definitely would be thrilled to have a nice “rock” that otherwise might have been out of my Fiance’s range at a jewelry store. I have purchased numerous pieces of jewelry from pawn shops.I have never been disappointed. If you are purchasing precious gems do your homework first! Not all diamonds are the same grade or color. Pawn shop owners also have several jewelers loops. Look the stones over very slow. Keep a close eye on any possible cracks, occlusions etc. If your potential purchase is high dollar I definitely would spend the extra money for an appraisal.

  • My ring ring was designed and crafted by a local jewelry maker. The small center diamond is lab-created, and flanked by two equally-small emeralds. It’s not fancy, large, or expensive. But it’s unique, it supported a local artist, and I love it. I probably would have no problem with something from a pawn shop, though. But my favorite pieces of jewelry are those I had custom-made by artisans.

  • Wow. Interesting question. My only worry with going to a pawn shop would be getting ripped off. Otherwise, buying used is a great way to go.

    My engagement ring (which I picked out myself and then begged for) is a small inexpensive ruby ring that I love. It’s the most expensive piece of jewelry I own by far. I think it was $300. In retrospect, I didn’t need a ring at all, although I do like wearing a wedding band.

    I really see no reason why a woman would find a used ring to be offensive. Sometimes I’m amazed at what is considered “acceptable” due simply to the way society (or more likely business/advertising) has deemed to be acceptable. The fact that diamond engagement rings worth 3-months salary are the norm seems preposterous!

    And, I read a National Geographic article on DeBeers and blood diamonds long ago. Nasty stuff…

    By the way, I enjoy your blog – just found it recently and it’s great to see someone writing about finance and sustainability, since they are so closely tied together.

  • darmuzz

    How about a ring from an estate sale?

  • I wouldn’t have a problem with buying an engagement ring at a pawn shop if I was sure the future wife was ok with it. My wife and I bought our wedding rings off of Amazon so she wasn’t too picky about her ring.

  • That’s tough. While I’m attracted to the money saving aspect of buying a used ring – I’m not sure I’d be able to shake the THOUGHT of where it came from. In order to end up at the pawn shop in the first place, the ring is likely to be from a separated couple, a dead person, or someone having money problems. Since all of those things are things I’d like to avoid… I’d be afraid that the jewellery would bring me bad luck!

    Instead, I’d buy a new engagement ring, but certainly wouldn’t be spending a lot of money on it. I know for a fact my engagement ring cost my husband $799… and it’s absolutely perfect!

    But then again – I’m not really a “jewellery person” =P

  • Any man who would spend $5000 on a piece of jewellery wouldn’t be marrying *me*. I have tiny hands and wore a dainty little “promise ring” before Mr D and I married. We picked it out together and I think we spent $35 on it – at a pawn shop. Then we bought plain gold bands from a local jeweller.

    I have more of an issue with the manufactured need for diamonds than with pawn shops, which fill a real need.

  • My friend bought his wife a very nice ring from a pawn shop. If you have a reputable one nearby, i recommend.

  • Bryan

    I bought the engagement ring for my wife off of eBay because the value for the diamond was much more than I paid. I believe I purchased it from somebody whose engagement request had been denied. When I got it, I took it to be examined by a local diamond dealer who told me it was legit. I ended up buying a new setting for it, but it still was a great value. If you have a high risk tolerance, I don’t see any reason not to buy from somewhere other than a jewelry store.

  • I got my engagement ring for my wife from a family member who is retired from the jewelry business. I like the fact that it isn’t supporting a corrupt diamond business.

  • I would not buy an engagement ring at a pawn shop. It seems strange to put someone’s old ring onto my future wife’s finger. It’s like getting her a used car, but worse. I’d rather find a good deal online. I researched how to buy an engagement ring like crazy before making my final decision to make my purchase online.

    I’m glad I made that choice because I got a fantastic ring at a great price.

    I’d sell an engagement ring to a pawn shop, but I wouldn’t buy one from there!

  • Rachel

    My solution to the diamond problem was not to have one at all. I have never worn rings, and a lot of my work and play activities don’t allow the wearing of, and I’m known for losing things despite my best efforts. I normally refuse to buy jewellery worth more than $20, so I won’t be upset if I lose it. So I was iffy on rings in the first place.
    My husband wanted them, so I agreed on the basis that mine could be very small, simple, and cheap. I am opposed to engagement rings given that they are an archaic demonstration of wealth from a man to a woman as a prereq for marriage with no return from the woman. I am opposed to diamonds because they are artificially inflated in worth, and a major source of international conflict (though I’d feel ethically okay with a Canadian diamond or a laboratory-produced diamond).
    So I have no engagement ring. I wear a simple gold wedding band. It was new, but if I’d seen the sort of ultra-small and simple band I wanted at a pawn shop or second-hand store or whatever, I’d be fine to buy it there. If I were a purchaser of diamonds, I’d be fine with one from a pawn shop if I (or a friend) had the expertise to ensure it was legit. But then, I’d be fine with cubic zirconia too, as long as I was paying cubic zirconia prices.

  • I think having a ring purchased at a pawn shop as a certain allure to it, in a way. It’s sort of old fashioned and the ring would have a mystery behind it; who had to hock it for money? Where has it been? I like the idea of a “recycled” ring, though I’d hope my significant other would have gotten a good deal on it. :)

  • Rachel

    “It’s like buying her a used car, but worse”
    ie. it’s like letting someone else take the hit on the initial price markup while still getting a perfectly useful item that looks just the same as if you’d paid twice as much and owned for the first years of its life?
    I agree!

    It’s that kind of ridiculous logicless thinking that keeps the diamond industry making a killing off something that isn’t that rare or that special. Way to buy the marketing!

  • Blake

    I used idonowidont.com, not exactly a pawn shop, but still a discount site. Kind of a neat idea. Sell unwanted diamond engagement and wedding rings for massive discounts, but sellers make more than they would selling it to a dealer. Win – win.

  • MelodyO

    I’ve been married for 21 years, and if I had known that pawn shops carried engagement rings back then, I would have been the one dragging my boyfriend there! Then I would have had the pleasure of seeing a really good deal (plus the symbol of our everlasting love LOL) every time I looked at my hand.

    The thing that I’ve never understood is why any future wife would want to put their future husband into debt for an overly-expensive ring when the minute they marry it becomes HER debt, too. It always seems like such a shaky way to start a life together.

  • Diedra B

    I wouldn’t mind this. Mine was purchased from a jewelry company but if my spouse had gone to a pawn shop and bought a ring that had been there a long time (so as to know the owner likely wasn’t coming back for it), then I’d be perfectly fine with it.

    • I am pretty sure that pawn shops work in one of 2 ways:
      1) the seller sells the ring and no longer owns it
      2) the seller pawns the ring and has XX months to buy it back, if they do not, the shop owns the ring

  • Kpez

    I have an expensive ring and kept in in our divorce. I have been in a pawn shop to see if I could get rid of my ring. I went to a pawn shop in a great part of town where the shop was great, clean, everything was open no bars or glass separating the customers. In any case, I decided to take a look around the jewelry cases. This area of the city has quite a bit of money. I have also bought plenty of jewelry in the past so it’s about doing your homework and really looking at the pieces. I thought to my self while I was there that there were some really great current styles here an great quality. Also this pawn shop will ask for any certificates on the diamond so they can sell it easier. In the past pawn shop jewelry would make me cringe. Especially if it was an engagement ring. Now, I see what a great deal you can get if you know what you are looking for! You can get a great diamond for half of retail. And you can take to a jeweler and get the ring “all cleaned up” or remove the stone and get it reset. People spend way to much trying to impress people, my beautiful expensive ring has been sitting in a drawer for 2 years now. Just because someone spends a lot of money on a ring doesn’t mean forever. Also another option is reputable jewelry stores that will consign for their customers. Usually the prices are less that retail and more than a pawn shop since the jeweler has to make a cut. But they can appraise it for you.

    • The consignment idea is a really good one if you can find a store who will do it. But I agree – these rings often become keep sakes and are under used.
      Mrs. SPF has a ring from my great grandmother and she had it adjoined to her wedding band so she wears both all of the time.

  • Belle Thomson

    I would always avoid the pawn shops and those ridiculous cash for gold companies.

    There a couple of legit online companies now that can be trusted.

  • Blondo Pedrolin

    How would you feel about a pawn shop diamond in a new setting – only the diamond is used.

  • Urdu Shayari

    I think having a ring purchased at a pawn shop as a certain allure to it, in a way. It’s sort of old fashioned and the ring would have a mystery behind it; who had to hock it for money? Where has it been? I like the idea of a “recycled” ring, though I’d hope my significant other would have gotten a good deal on it. :)

  • Tony

    Another tip that saved me some cash. I bought mine (or my wife’s) from a small local jeweler who had an excellent reputation — I bought in April which saved the money because apparently the diamond is April’s birthstone, so there was a sale for that whole month.

  • H Ne

    Hi everyone,

    I’m a woman, and would have absolutely no problem getting a pawn shop ring from my boyfriend. I just bought a beautiful vintage onyx cocktail ring for myself at a pawnshop this evening. It’s stunning, and I got it for $100. I have seen similar onyx rings from the 1930′s sold for thousands of dollars. I would applaud my husband-to-be for exercising such financial shrewdness!

  • Catherine

    Canadian diamonds are more expensive and very easy to Id if lost or stln

  • Bliss

    If i can get my hands on a nice gold band with a cheap price, then sure i am going to take it. I collect that type of stuff as if i was a metal detector. If someone gives me a ring i have no problem with where it was purchased. I know it’s kinda voodoo If the ring came form someone who has just passed on…but then again i guess i could be a little VooDoo. Gold is Gold, Silver is Silver. and i think the older the better… although with diamonds they say the cut makes a diamond better….but really in all reality what is worth more the diamond, or the gold? It all comes down to how big of a See You Next Tuesday your are about to marry…Get my lingo?

  • sierrah

    well he got my ring from a pawn shop i was mad. he could get a new gun and a motor cycle but he had to get me a used ring yea thats not kool at all. So i would say look around on the enet for good deals! Think of it this way its the most important ring you will ever buy. So if I was a guy there is no way in hell i would ever buy the love of my life a ring from the pawn shop. When I found out thats where my ring came from i raised hell and now i got a ring that i like for a great price thanks to amazon!

  • Courtney

    If you can find the diamond you’ve always dreamed of at a pawn shop (for a fraction of the price) why wouldn’t you buy it?! Pop that rock out and put it in a shiny new setting made just for you. If you’re worried about who had the ring before you, or that it may be “cursed”, I’d recommend getting a CZ and spending the rest on psychiatric evaluations.

    Besides, diamonds are forever… It’s just the relationships and/or people that wear them that aren’t. ;)

  • LaylaJohns

    The pawn shop my husband went to they don’t buy fake anything. So we got a 6,000 dollar ring cheap! I’m in love! This ring is way better than what we were thinking of getting in Kay.

  • Lisa researching buying used engagement ring

    I would have no problem wearing a “used” engagement ring. Honestly, who cares that someone wore it before you? If you want it to seem newer, you can always have the diamond(s) transferred into a new setting.

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