12/01/2011 02:37 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Jewelry: Accessory or Asset?

Have you ever glanced at your wrist or jewelry box and pondered the net asset value of your portfolio of precious metals, stones and alloys?

The Big Apple is the world's crossroads of opulence and financial savvy. That unique fusion of consciousness is driving an evolution in the significance of jewelry, and an emerging trend of Manhattanites that see it as an integral part of one's diversified net worth. In today's world of skepticism toward the securities industry, they aren't just turning to ETFs or mutual funds for exposure to precious metals. They want the real thing and are increasingly frequenting pawnshops.

My thoughts on this began the other day while I was checking-in on one of my family's pawnshop locations in downtown Manhattan. I overheard a man, after making a pawn transaction, enthusiastically say to the manager "Thank God for gold!" It took me a few minutes to process and realize that he was actually being serious. For him, his gold was a logical and tangible safety net, and he was relieved to have had it in this instance.

Later on, in the same afternoon, I travelled to our uptown pawnshop location. Coincidently, just as I walked in a mother was interested in buying her 16-year-old son his first 14kt gold chain for his birthday. While assisting them and asking what type of style they were looking for, she explained to me that this purchase wasn't for looks or materialistic reasons, but for "back up." Confused by her statement, I had asked her what she had meant and she clearly explained to me that if something were to go wrong, he would have this to use for a loan, not to sell it but just to get by temporarily. She wasn't buying her son a gold necklace for any sort of aesthetic vanity but as an insurance policy against hard times.

With gold being so high right now, many are selling their gold rather than buying, worried that prices cannot stay elevated forever. However, gold has continued to appreciate in value over the past decade. Recent history says it's one of the most stable holders of value in an increasingly volatile world. If you are in the market for a gold item, a pawnshop may be a good outlet to look in. This will help you get an initial idea of how much gold is being sold for by the pennyweight (DWT). You can even ask the pawnbroker how much he or she would lend you for your gold if a loan was ever needed in the future to get a better sense of its borrowing capacity (some stores may offer more on a loan if the item was purchased at the same store). Who needs a personal financial analyst when you can find out the ROI of a purchase right where you buy it?

Whether it's tumbling home prices, escalating credit card bills, or depreciating stock portfolios, many people feel helpless and stuck watching their wealth spiral lower. However, many people do not realize that they may have a gift from Grandma locked away in a drawer for many years or a ring sitting on their finger that has actually appreciated in price and may provide much needed liquidity.

Pawnshops unlock this value, while giving a person the ability to take out collateral loans means you do not have to actually sell cherished items. One of the main things that I have learned throughout my years in this business is that a pawnshop is an overlooked medium that can transform the finishing touch on an outfit into an unexpected means of prosperity and worth.

See more from Lauren Kaminsky on her blog, Pawn on the Cobb.