Do Pawn Shops Buy Semi-Precious Gemstones

Brian McCracken


Here is one of those questions that as a pawnbroker, we get indirectly asked all the time.

The Short Answer

Do pawn shops buy semi-precious stones? Better yet, when semi-precious stones (like birth stones) are in jewelry, do pawn shops pay for those as well as the gold or silver? The answer is this question is that no, typically pawn shops are not going to give you anything for these types of stones.

The Reason Why

Because unless they are a really special, genuine, rare semi-precious stone, they just aren’t worth much to speak of. Don’t get me wrong, you will pay a lot for them in a jewelry store I’m sure, but have you tried to sell them on the second hand market? Nobody really wants them.

See, diamonds have an entire industry around them. There’s the primary diamond companies, diamond wholesalers, diamond distributors, so on and so forth. That doesn’t exist for the semi-precious stone market really. There’s no place for a pawn shop to turn and sell these types of stones when they come out of jewelry that gets melted.

In other words, if a pawn shop can’t sell those stones, how can you expect for them to pay you for them? The answer is, they can’t and you probably shouldn’t expect them to.

A lot of people wonder why pawn shops don’t often buy gemstones, birth stones, or semi-precious stones. The fact is that there isn’t really a large second hand market for them and they can be very difficult to sell. It’s the trouble selling them that makes it hard for a pawn shop to put money into buying them or loaning against them knowing that there will likely be no return on their investment.

The Exception To The Rule

There is of course an exception to this rule, as there is with almost everything in the pawn industry. That is, if the stone we are talking about is a genuine, rare semi-precious stone that isn’t a diamond, that might actually be worth something.

However, finding a pawnbroker that can accurately determine the value of it might be difficult. Pawn shops just don’t deal with these kinds of stones on a regular basis overall. Why? Because finding this type of colored stone is very uncommon.

What Pawnbrokers Normally See When It Comes To Semi-Precious Stones

What pawnbrokers are used to seeing is small rubies, emeralds, etc. – all really common stuff that you might expect to see anywhere, and they are normally pretty poor quality.

What’s even more common is non-genuine semi-precious stones. They are referred to as synthetics and they are everywhere. I would estimate that roughly 70% of the “Semi-precious” stones that come into the pawn shops I’ve worked with are synthetics – a fancy word for FAKE. 9 out of 10 times, when someone brings a “Ruby” into a pawn shop, it’s synthetic to begin with. Just like with man-made diamonds, a pawn shop won’t pay for a man-made semi-precious stone just because it’s a certain color.

Another issue with colored stones is that even if they are natural, many of them are “Color enhanced” or “Clarity enhanced.” What that means is that they’ve been treated and modified to have a certain brighter color than they naturally did. If it’s not that, then they’ve been treated to remove imperfections.

You have to keep in mind, what makes any stone or metal valuable is its rarity. Really colorful, high clarity semi-precious stones can be rare. When stones are treated, whether they are diamond or semi-precious, it reduces their value to collectors, wholesalers and pretty much everyone because it’s no longer natural.

When you start with a lesser stone and treat it to make it more colorful or more clear it’s no longer natural or therefore rare. It’s artificial at that point, even if the material of the stone is still natural.

The Bottom Line

Pretty much everyone in the pawn industry understands that jewelry stores really sell people on semi-precious stones, even when they aren’t worth much at all. However, just because someone has sold you on something when it was new doesn’t mean it’s actually work anything to someone else, as is often the case.

Pawnbrokers as a whole would probably love to have an easy source to sell these types of stones at volume because it would open up a whole new market and source of revenue for them. Sadly however, that just is not the case. As such, since a pawnbroker can’t easily sell semi-precious stones, they don’t really buy them or pay anything for them.