Jul 28

Pawn Shop vs. Jeweler for Your Engagement Diamond

By Calla Gold

Pawn Shop
Are You Wondering Where to Shop for Your Engagement Diamond?

On occasion a client asks me about diamond shopping at pawn shops vs. diamond shopping with a jeweler, so I decided to write this to answer most questions you may have.  Let me start by showing you all this interesting exchange I got from DiamondReview.com:

“I plan on buying a possible engagement ring in a pawn shop but I don’t know what to look for. How can I tell if its a good diamond and can I fix it up to look like its brand new so my girlfriend won’t know i bought it in a pawn shop. thanks, greg”


“1. You will get a better deal (better diamond at a better price) if you buy from a jeweler, not a pawn shop.

2. Although this website is not for relationship advice, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that being anything less than completely straightforward and honest with your girlfriend may not be the best way to start a lifelong trust-based relationship. Ben”

Is Your Fiance OK With a Pawn Shop Diamond?

First and foremost make sure that your fiance is OK with your choice of vendor.  If she is OK with that, I’d recommend that you take her with you as that will ensure that she really is cool with it.

In this post I’ll give you how-to’s for diamond shopping at a Pawn Shops. and I’ll also tell you the benefits of buying your engagement diamond from a good jeweler.

Can Engaged or Soon to be Engaged Couples Save Money Buying Antique Engagement Rings at a Pawn Shop?

I’ve heard both the good and the bad about pawn shop diamond shopping.  Some have saved money, but just about as many people have gone on to regret their decision.

If you are really looking for a true “vintage” or “antique” diamond, you are better off to work with a jeweler who deals in estate or antique jewelry, or one who has access to estate or antique pieces.

If you plan to shop  for your diamond at a pawn shop for any type of diamond, be prepared to do some extra work.  Here are 9 steps you can take to protect yourself if you choose to go the pawn shop route:

9 Steps to Take Before Pawn Shopping for Diamonds

1. Establish ahead of time the size range, diamond shape, color range and clarity range you want.

This is important not only because it will help you quickly narrow down the options that are available to you, but also so that it is easier for you to compare notes on rings that fit your criteria if you are shopping at several different pawn shop locations.

2. Go armed with information

Go online and get ideas for prices for 1ct. or the size you are looking for. That way you can have a sense if a diamond you are considering is a better than average price.


Using a Loupe Properly Shows You What a Jeweler Sees in Your Diamond

3. Get a loupe and learn how to use it properly.

You will want to come prepared, so I recommend buying your own loupe if you are going to pawn shops.  It also provides the added benefit of making you look more experienced, which may deter the broker from trying to take advantage of you.

Here’s my blog post on how to use a loupe.

When looking at diamonds check for inclusions in the diamond. You’re not looking for a diamond that is perfectly clear. I mean you’re looking for a deal right? It’s OK if there are some inclusions as long as they are not visible to the naked eye. More inclusions often mean less sparkle. For a ring you’ll be wearing daily, clarity and sparkle are quite important. If there are too many inclusions then walk away.

4. Bring a friend who has some knowledge about diamonds if you can find one.

5. Look For Value in Dusty Showcases

The longer the ring(s) you are looking at have been sitting in the showcase, the better the chance there is that its price tag doesn’t reflect the recent quadrupling of gold prices. Diamond prices have been going up as well, so older price tags are good news for you.

Look at the condition of the price tag to tell you how long the ring has been in the showcase.  The longer it’s been in the inventory, the deeper the discount you are likely to receive to move it along.

Faded looking ink on the tag is a good indicator that the ring has been there for a few years.

6. Bring someone with you who wears a larger diamond with a known color and clarity for comparison purposes.

If you don’t have any experienced friends then you can just bring someone with you who is wearing a large, good size diamond with nice color;  It will be great for side by side comparisons of diamond color. Just look at both diamonds under the same lighting.

7. When you decide to purchase, make sure to get it in writing that the diamond is natural and untreated.

With the recent uptick in diamond simulants and imitation gems it’s important to get the seller to provide you with a written statement that says the gemstones are genuine, untreated diamonds.

Here are some of the issues you could run into without a written guarantee:

Your stone could be a fracture-filled diamond, (visible fracture inclusions are filled with clear material to improve their clarity.)

Your stone could be a clarity enhanced diamond. Clarity enhanced diamonds are treated with a high heat, high pressure treatment that improves clarity. Check out an interesting video showing a before and after of a clarity enhanced diamond and also showing a fracture filled diamond.

Your stone could be a Moissanites. Moissanite looks like diamond and is hard like a diamond, but not a diamond. It’s grown in a lab. Check out my blog post: “What About Moissanite for Your Engagement Ring?”

Your stone could be a CZ. Cubic Zerconia or CZ as it is commonly referred to is made in a lab at a cost of a few dollars. It certainly won’t hold up like a diamond or a Moissanite stone. For more information on CZ’s, you can check out my blog post:  “CZ vs Diamond for Your Engagement  Ring.”

By taking precautions to get a written guarantee on the type of stone you are purchasing, you are able to protect yourself and your purchase. In the future, if you have the diamond appraised by a certified appraiser and it turns out not to be what is written in the guarantee, you will have recourse against the seller.

8. Be prepared with your own appraiser to swiftly get your diamond choice checked out.

When you go to have the diamond checked by an appraiser, don’t use the one the pawn shop broker recommends. This article is about an unethical practice between appraisers and sellers in New York. If they can do it there, they can do it anywhere. I recommend that you find your own respected certified appraiser picked out ahead of time.

You don’t need tell antone what appraiser you will be seeing. But do tell them that you will be seeing an appraiser. If there is anything they are uncomfortable with about the diamond, like a treatment they haven’t disclosed, they should mention it at this point.

Since you are keeping your business to yourself, which is wise, I would recommend against mentioning the pawn shop’s name to your appraiser. Just say a private party wishes to sell the diamond ring. I’d bring the ring in without the price tag attached, because the price tag might tell the appraiser who the pawn broker is and if they have a relationship then it will be better for the pawn broker than for you.

9.   Don’t ignore the ugly duckling rings that might have a great diamond.

Most couples, when going to pawn shops, are looking for a ring that is either very simple or has beautiful old filigree details. I encourage couples to look at the ugly duckling rings too for their diamonds. I have seen some ghastly awful old rings with nice diamonds in them.

One young woman showed me an old ring from her mother with a square-ish box-like setting that covered a lot of the diamond edges. When we removed and cleaned the diamond, it turned out to be beautiful. We were able to custom design a light airy ring to show it off. The whole family was surprised at how pretty her ring was since the older ring had sat unloved in a safety deposit box for years.

If you find an ugly duckling ring with a nice diamond, get rid of the setting and use the diamond in a design that is your taste.

Now Let’s Look at those 9 Steps of Buying a Diamond With a Good Jeweler

1. Your jeweler will help you figure out a good size, color and clarity while keeping your budget in mind. Lean on their expertise.

Your jeweler can take time to explain the 4C’s of diamond buying to you, and can advise you, based on your budget and your idea of the perfect stone for you, where there might be some give and take between several stones to help you find your perfect diamond match.

2. Your jeweler will tell you about diamond prices.

Two Women Talking about a Ring

Calla Explaining to Lisa the Things to Look for in a Diamond.

3. Your jeweler will have a loupe and show you how to use it and what to look for.

4. Your jeweler can be that knowledgeable friend answering all your questions. See my blog post; How to Choose a Jeweler.

5. You can ask your jeweler for a “Deal,” he may have something special to show you.

6. Your jeweler will have diamonds to compare with whichever ones you are looking at.

7. Your jeweler will be knowledgeable about all potential diamond treatments and be able to discuss them with you.

8. Your jeweler may already have excellent certification for your chosen diamond by, for example, GIA (Gemological Institute of America.).

9. Your jeweler may have an ugly duckling ring with a great looking diamond.

Notice how much easier it was to read the jeweler list as opposed to the pawn shop list?  You can expect the same level of ease with your jeweler as opposed to pawn shopping for diamonds.

Like the guy at the top who answered that online question, going with a local jeweler in purchasing your diamond can be satisfying in many ways. A good jeweler has probably been in town for a long time and has a good reputation that they are proud of. They want to educate you and help you in choosing the diamond to symbolize your love.

Your jeweler knows how important this purchase is for you and all that it means to you. It’s really nice to have a relationship with your jeweler. That’s the jeweler you can go back to over the years for your other jewelry needs. It’s a happy memory to have, how you went through the process of diamond selection and picking a ring for your love.

Having a good jeweler, opens the door up for you to give your fiance the diamond in a simple solitaire setting and then going back together so she can be part of the design process with your jeweler. Your fiance will end up with a ring she absolutely loves the design of and a great story to tell her friends who will ask all about it.

Your Engagement Ring with a Previously Owned or Antique Diamond

I encourage people who have gotten their ring at pawn shops to consider re-setting the diamond into a new design. People will ask you, “where did you get your ring?” whether it’s pretty or not, because it’s what we do.

If you and your fiancé have chosen a new ring to put it in, your story is, “we picked it out together at The Wedding Emporium and really liked the curvy design.” Or; “We had my ring custom designed by Calla Gold Jewelry” or whatever. You shouldn’t make the pawn shop part of your story. That’s just your shopping secret!

If you purchased your ring at a pawn shop, by putting your previously owned diamond into a new design, you’ve made it your own. It’s now part of your happy story, not someone else’s history that you know nothing about.

Your Life, Your Love, Your Story

Together you’ll find your diamond. Together you’ll dream up the design. And together you’ll make a life, symbolized by your ring. Make it a happy story.

Your Personal Jeweler,

Calla Gold

36 thoughts on “Pawn Shop vs. Jeweler for Your Engagement Diamond

  1. This information about buying a diamond at a pawn shop or a jeweler is super helpful. I was slightly surprised you did it since you are such a good jeweler and obviously want your clients to buy their diamonds from you.
    But in typical Calla Gold jewelry blogger fashion you gave good and helpful advice. I thank you for that. It’s pretty classy of you Calla Gold. You’re the best.

    • Hi Madeleine,
      I appreciate your feedback. Even my husband was like, “why are you sharing this information?” I did it because I recently had a tight budgeted couple who said they were looking with me and at pawn shops.
      I wrote them an e-mail with this information to help them in their choice. Happily they ended up buying their sweet little diamond from me.
      I told them, “I’m not a jealous jeweler, I’ll still work with you on your ring no matter where you get your diamond.”
      I just don’t want someone to buy the wrong diamond. I want their diamond to be the right one and for them to feel good about it. So I took the email I wrote to them and added about a 1000 words and there you have my post!
      I appreciate you giving me a reason to explain why I’m helping someone consider purchasing from the competition!
      Calla Gold

  2. Calla, this was an amazing post! I think you were very wise to write it. After I read it, I thought there’s no way I would ever feel safe buying a diamond from a pawn shop. There are way too many things that can go wrong when you select such an important, expensive item from someone who doesn’t have the experience and expertise to guide you in a wise selection.

    Thank you as always for such a careful and thorough informative article!


    • Hi Linda, I appreciate your feedback on my long post on the subject of buying your diamond from a pawn shop vs. a jeweler. It’s great to know you read it, I was actually concerned about its length, but I wanted to give all that info. So you’ve made me feel I made the right choice.
      Thanks Linda M!

  3. I went to kays jewelers yesterday and inspected what they claimed was an si 1 diamond. It had three huge black carbon inclusions in the table. It was not eye clean. Jewelry stores inflate prices and use unrepeatable grading practices. So to claim you get a better deal, is just untrue, most of the time. On averave your jewelry loses 80 percent of its value, the second you cross the threshold of their door on your way out. Fred Cuellar has excellent books to help you pick good diamonds and good diamomd dealers. Dont buy the hype, a good used diamond is far better than a new diamond that is not what its supposed to be.

    • Hi Jay,
      It sounds like you had an unsatisfactory experience. What your eye saw without magnification, the carbon spots would certainly indicate that the diamond in question was not an SI1. An SI1 has no eye visible inclusions. Under ten times magnification yes, to the naked eye no.
      The grading scale that is an industry standard is from the Gemological Institute of America. It is such a good system that it has become the standard to compare diamonds and separate similarities and differences. When a staff member gives out wrong infomation on the grade of a diamond, it is their error not the systems. The grading system is true. Your experience, hmmm not good.
      I have not read Fred Cueller’s book. I really like Antoinette Matlins “Jewelry and Gems: The Buying Guide” and “Diamonds.” She teaches at jewelry conventions and I’m a big fan.
      Since the early 2,000’s and the advent of the Diamond Rappaport Report and industry diamond pricing guide, the margin between a jeweler’s cost and and what they sell diamonds for has fallen. You will not have that 80% you are talking about. No jeweler I know of could tack on that kind of a profit.
      You are right however that perhaps a used diamond purchased from a private party or other seller of used diamonds might offer an even lower margin between cost and sale price.
      Diamond Jeweler who Uses the GIA Grading scale,
      Calla Gold

  4. I’ve been thinking about going to a pawn shop to get my ring, just because my fiance and I don’t have a lot of money for the wedding anyways. I am going to get my finger fitted at a jeweler store, and then my friend who is a diamond expert is coming with me to appraise the diamond. I really like the idea of putting an antique diamond in the ring. I have a ring that my grandma gave me, and the diamond is gorgeous, the band is pretty lackluster though. If I got a pretty ring for the pawn shop and then traded out diamonds, the ring would mean so much more to me.

    • Hi Angela,
      You certainly have a good plan and your friend the diamond expert will make your shopping go well no doubt.
      Thank you for writing,
      Calla Gold

  5. I would love to go to all of the pawnshops in the area and see what they have. If I found enough rings and other things I would probably start my own little pawn shop. How low has the price for something like a ring been?

    • Hello Walter,
      It’s like asking how much is a diamond? How much is a house? They’re all different depending on diamond size, gold or platinum weight and a plethora of factors.
      Calla Gold

  6. Thank you so much Calla for such an informative article.You have very well described about benefits and difference of buying the diamond from the pawn shop and jewelry.I also liked the idea of rework that one has to do after buying the ring from pawn shop in order to make it special.

    • Hi Bruce,
      Thank you for your feedback. I know that everyone has their own view on how to find the ring they want to get married in. And I figured if rather than come to someone like me they wanted to go to a pawn shop, I wanted them to have some tips on the best way for them to move forward.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  7. This is the best blog yet! I am so happy it was posted. I have a small business Jeweler close by. Unfortunately, it is way expensive to shop there.
    That being said, I shop Pawn shops as well.
    I have been wanting to purchase a loupe for a long while now. So, I agree with your advice.
    I have noticed as of lately. The pawn shops have caught onto the tag thing, in my area. I recently went into a shop that had put all new tags on the jewelry. I asked how long one ring had been in the case and the answer was “We don’t know”. I have had to learn the hard way about jewelry with trial and error. I truly do not mind paying for great work and for a business to make profit. I just want to be happy when leaving with my purchase, as well. Hoping to get a loupe soon. Thank you Calla
    Respectfully V.

    • Hello Vedette,
      Thank you for writing about your experiences. It helps me in my blog writing to know if something I wrote resonates, angers or illuminates some aspect of the jewelry world for my great readers. Your feedback is just great.
      I wonder if that pawn shop read my blog!
      I hope you get that loupe soon!
      Happy jewelry shopping!
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  8. Calla, thank you for this info. I am considering purchasing a ring at a pawn shop. Here is the info I have – platinum setting with 1.17 carats of diamonds, two of these are approximately 1/5 ct each, center diamond is 1.59 ct VS2 clarity and H color. Is this sufficient info for you to give me a price range? Thank you for any advice.

    • Hi Valarie,
      I’m not comfortable throwing out prices. You might compare their prices with Blue Nile. Platinum settings are worth more than yellow and white gold.
      You might want to pay a professional to look at it, like an appraiser of your choice, much like how I took the nice used car we were going to buy for our son to our car mechanic. He was our second opinion and his information was most helpful.
      I wish you the best of luck.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  9. Hi my name is john,I work in a pawn shop and we sell jewelry. That being said, you are so wrong when you say you will get a better diamond at a better price at a jewelry shop. We scrap the low quality stuff and only sell the good stuff. For example, a ring that had been purchased for $7900 at a large jewelry store in our area is on our shelf now for $2499. .87ct vs2 good good G color Nice setting and sized for free. Pawn shops are great but educate yourself first because sometimes pawnshops have no idea what they have.

    • Hello John,
      Thank you for writing. The exchange in my site saying what you are talking about was from an online exchange on Diamondreviewdotcom. Not my words, just a conversation starter for my article.
      The entire article is how to help people if they choose to shop at an establishment like yours. My purpose was not to insult that shopping choice, but to acknowledge that it is a choice some wish to take and to give some guidelines in case they go that way.
      If you will read my steps you won’t see any boogie man predictions or insulting language thrown your way.
      I agree with you that to educate yourself first is a valuable step to take.
      You are right that pawn shops don’t always know what they have.
      Your Jeweler Friend,

  10. Love this article. I recently purchased a 14kp yellow gold and diamond ring from a second hand store that specializes in gem stones (not a pawn shop). These are all good tips – especially the loupe since that was how I could tell it was a real diamond. do your research before going to a place like this. also, if there are other jewelers in the area ask if you can buy it and have it checked by a pro/3rd party for accuracy. There should be no issue with that. I got an engagement ring for $150 that looks gorgeous and way more expensive. The jeweler I took it to was surprised and said private sellers would have gotten $400 for it and it would be much more when it was new.

    Remember, buying second hand reduces mining and horrible costs on human lives and the environment. Go green and buy used jewelry!

  11. Dear Calla,

    Thanks again for another interesting and informative post.


  12. Go to both anyway. I’ve been going to both. I’ve found a diamond in a pawn shop for 1300 and it is a very nice 1ct diamond. I took a picture of it and went to my jeweler and the guy wants 4500 for a diamond of the same size and it looks EXACTLY the same. I’m talking a family run jeweler too. Not something like Kay’s or Zales or whatever. Not to mention the guy is my neighbor so that is his discounted price. Just don’t buy anything online and you’ll be fine.

    • Hello Kitten,
      That is a pretty extreme difference for sure. Not the normal. But good for you. Thanks for sharing your story.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  13. I am really enjoying your post. I’m in Qatar and I don’t know if there are any good places to shop here. But, I thought that I would say that I have heard that if you are down and out fiscally, a diamond is not what will fetch you a reprieve…maybe you should sell your setting and keep your rock for better days ahead. I like the idea of recycling stones; especially to heirs. My wife and I hand down our (her) diamonds to our Daughter-in-laws and plan to give more to our Grandchildren. They select their own settings using the gems from what we give them. Keep on being the great personal jeweler that you appear to be! I’m looking for a Diamond around 1 carat with possibly 1 gem to either side, rather plain, solitaire like, for our 45th anniversary. I don’t want to spend more than $15,000 USD.

    • Hi John,
      Thank you for weighing in all the way from Qatar. Your daughter’s in law are lucky that you and your wife are generous with diamonds as gifts to them.
      I wish you the best of luck in finding your perfect diamond ring.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  14. Thanks for letting us know that older tags usually mean that they have a lower price. My brother is planning on buying his fiance a ring at a pawn service, and he is wondering how to go about it the right way. I will be sure to tell him that he should look for an older tag when checking out pawn services so that he can be sure it will have a lower price.

    • Hi Ashley,
      I find that older faded tags often mean a price based on older lower gold prices in normal jewelry stores too.
      I wish your brother the best of luck in finding the perfect ring.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  15. I was searching for a guide before buying a ring from a pawn shop. And got your article. Thanks for sharing. all of the above tips are really helpful.

  16. I love that you suggested having our own loupe and bringing it with us. As you mentioned, it will make us look professionals to really get the best and honest deals. I will share this tip with my brother since I will be helping him look for a ring. He will be proposing to his girlfriend of five years this December. Thanks for the tips!

  17. I like how you mentioned that the longer the ring you are looking at has been sitting in the showcase, the better the chance there is that its price tag doesn’t reflect the recent quadrupling of gold prices. My brother is looking for an engagement ring for his fiancee but doesn’t have the money to buy a brand new one. I will definitely pass this information about finding an engagement ring in a pawn shop onto my brother, and hopefully, it will help him find a ring for his fiancee.

    • Hi Brooklyn,
      I had a grad student who used that strategy, got a nice .75ct diamond and brought it to me. Old tag and all. The bummer for him was that his girlfriend didn’t like the gag-worthy ring design. I designed a new ring for her with the .75ct. diamond. She loved it. He was a bit stressed as she has good taste. So it took him a while to recover from the cost of the custom design.
      They have now both gotten their degrees and are living happily in New Haven.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

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