Tacky or frugal? Growing trend offers previously-owned engagement rings

Tacky or frugal? Growing trend offers previously-owned engagement rings

January 28th, 2014 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Several secondhand jewelry websites give people whose engagements are called off or whose marriages end a way to recycle their rings and get some return on their investment.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

DEAD AND BURIED

For the divorced woman or jilted fiancée who really wants to bury the past, check out the Wedding Ring Coffin. This website, found under the same name, offers women a choice of ivory or mahogany caskets that are 6-by-by-2-inches, lined in velvet, in which they can deposit their used ring. The dead marriage may be memorialized with an inscription on the coffin's brass plaque.

When Phil Johnson and his fiancée, Leslie, were shopping for "the ring," the couple checked into pre-owned rings as a possible source for a great bargain.

"But everything that existed at that time on eBay or Craigslist was either highly prone to fraud or you really didn't get a clear idea of what you were purchasing," Leslie says in a phone interview from their home in St. Louis, Mo.

That experience motivated the Johnsons to create a secondhand bridal jewelry website, "Have You Seen the Ring?" It sells pre-owned engagement rings to couples looking for a dream ring at a fair price. The website, which launched in 2011, also provides couples whose engagements have shattered before they wed or whose marriages ended in divorce a way to recycle their rings and get some return on the investment.

"Have You Seen the Ring" and similar websites, such as "I Do Now I Don't," are part of a growing trend in the bridal resale market, serving as middlemen between buyers and sellers. Capitalizing on the fact that the average engagement ring costs about $5,000, according to theknot.com, these websites promote themselves as a trustworthy way to save on bridal bling.

So OK, the groom doesn't break the bank in one purchase (which judging from these sites, sometimes goes belly up), but do today's brides want a ring with bad karma?

"My best friend just had that happen, where his engagement was broken the weekend before Christmas, and now he's stuck with a ring he can't use," says University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Ashley Broadway, who's engaged to Jake Thetford. "I wouldn't feel comfortable with my fiancé buying that ring and that being my engagement ring." wouldn't want a ring that brought someone else bad luck."

UTC senior Tori Davis and December grad Michelle Brooks say they aren't superstitious, but neither likes the idea of a recycled ring.

"I personally think it's kind of tacky," says Davis, who's engaged to Josh Martin. "I wouldn't want Josh to buy a ring that had been worn by another girl. I would hope Josh would think I was worth more than a ring that was pre-owned."

"A ring is such a special and sacred thing that you wouldn't want something someone else has worn. You like thinking you wear something picked out especially for you," says Brooks, who will wed Brock Oliver in June.

Johnson says her response to girls who don't want a "used ring" is: "Memories around this ring begin when it belongs to you and your fiancé."

HOW THE SITE WORKS

At Have You Seen the Ring, Johnson explains, shoppers can view a photo and description of more than 1,200 listings in rings as well as 10,000 loose diamonds. The pieces sell anywhere from 30 to 50 percent less than their price in brick-and-mortar jewelers, she says.

And someone likes the idea. Sales from January 2013 to this month have increased 130 percent on the website, Johnson says.

Sellers send their rings to the website's mailing address, along with an appraisal and description of cut, color, clarity. Buyers send their money, which is held in an escrow account until the sale closes. The specifics of every diamond are verified by one of three Gemological Institute of America-certified gemologists before the piece is posted online, says Johnson. Should it not meet expectations, the ring and the purchase money are returned to their respective clients, she says.

Using the example of a halo engagement ring - the trendsetting ring choice among today's couples - Johnson said a one-carat diamond, average in color and clarity, would probably be priced at $6,500 in St. Louis stores. On the website, it sells for $3,300.

Bob Groves, sales associate at Wright Jewelers in Chattanooga, says he isn't familiar with these used-ring websites, but he has seen an uptick in the number of people bringing rings in for appraisals before they sell them online.

"Someone called me the other day, and there was one of our appraisals on a ring on eBay," he said.

He finds sellers are evenly divided between men and women and, yes, many of them are trying to unload a ring from a busted engagement or marriage.

"Women will come in and say, 'I've got this old engagement ring and I'm about to get married. My husband doesn't want the ex's ring around the house. I want to sell.' Others just want to sell their rings and move on."

And those who aren't selling often want to remount a diamond from a ring.

"The diamond didn't hurt anybody; it's not its fault things didn't work out," he jokes. "Let's say you have a one-carat diamond solitaire in a ring worn 15 to 20 years, and the couple breaks up. The diamond will still be in nice condition, so you can remount it."

Jeremy Kennedy, general manager of Kennedy Jewelers in East Brainerd, says he was just made aware of resell websites last week. His company also buys pre-owned engagement and wedding rings and sells them as estate jewelry, he says. As many as 70 percent of people selling pre-owned rings at his store are women, he estimates. And, like Wright Jewelers, Kennedy's shop sees a lot of people bringing in used rings for appraisal before posting them for sale on the Internet.

"They need paperwork to put it up for sale."

Kennedy says he's found that today's generation of brides-to-be does not adhere to the old social mandate that a ring should be returned to the groom when an engagement is broken.

"We are living in a different world. It's really the right thing to do, but the girls claim, 'He gave that to me and it's mine to do what I want with,'" he says.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.