By Tim Grant Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Worthy", an online marketplace for diamonds, specializes in matching people trying to sell unwanted engagement rings with professional buyers.
After her six-year marriage ended in divorce two years ago, Ingrid Renberg gradually lost all emotional attachment to the one-carat diamond engagement ring she was left with.
No longer a symbol of love and happiness, she started to wonder how much money she could get selling it. She felt letting go of the ring would give her a fresh new start.
"The feeling hit me a couple of weeks ago that I was ready," said Renberg, 34, a forensic psychiatrist who lives in Pittsburgh. "I had grieved appropriately and was ready to move forward. I would not have been able to sell it right after the divorce. But I felt the time had come."
She took the ring to a local jeweler who offered her $1,500, which she declined because she thought the offer was too low. The jeweler suggested she advertise the ring on Craigslist.
But she feared that would be too dangerous, due to the possibility of being robbed or stuck with a bad check.
Then she found a company on the internet that seemed to be exactly what she was looking for.
Worthy specializes in matching people trying to sell unwanted engagement rings with professional buyers.
"The engagement ring is one of the most valuable assets a divorced woman has in her possession that can now be put to better use," said Judy Herbst, director of public relations for Worthy, an online marketplace for diamonds which is based in both New York and Tel Aviv.
Auctions run all day every day of the year, similar to the method used by eBay. All the bidders are part of a closed community of jewelry industry professionals, ranging from independent jewelry stores to dealers and wholesalers throughout the U.S. Ordinary retail buyers cannot use the Worthy site.
The company never purchases the rings but instead acts as a facilitator.
Other companies in the diamond resale marketplace, such as New York-based White Pine Diamond Sales and I Do Now I Don't, also based in New York, will buy items directly from sellers or will consign items.
When the country-club set want to unload their jewelry, they turn to high-end auction houses, such as Sotheby's and Christies, which operate quarterly auctions and only deal with items valued at $10,000 and above.
The majority of rings sold on Worthy's platform sell for $5,000 or less. The average sale is around $3,500. The company receives a seller fee of 20 percent on rings selling for $5,000 or less. Worthy representatives did not want to disclose how many diamonds it has sold. But the company did say it has reviewed and estimated more than 100,000 diamond rings in the last 18 months.
Sellers have the confidence of knowing their diamond ring is insured from the very start of the selling process, according to the company. The ring is collected by a FedEx courier free of charge. Worthy emails the sellers a FedEx label they can print out. Packages are tracked from the moment they leave the sellers' doors to the moment Worthy receives them.
Once Worthy receives a ring, the company gives it a value estimate based on a professional opinion, which considers the number of carats, its shape, clarity and other factors. The website also has the ring rated by the Gemological Institute of America, before they go to auction.
"If the auction is not successful, which means either it did not get the seller's minimum bid or the seller wants the ring back, we send it back along with the GIA report and there is no charge," Herbst said.
Stephen Morisseau, director of corporate communications at the GIA's world headquarters in Carlisbad, Calif., said he is familiar with Worthy and its system of auctioning diamond rings. He said for anyone making a gemstone jewelry transaction, buying or selling, having a GIA report, which scientifically describes the characteristics of the gems, can give customers a lot more confidence in the transaction.
"GIA's mission is to ensure the public's trust in gems and jewelry," Morisseau said. "Any company that takes that step to use a GIA report is helping to ensure that all-important public trust."
The company's founder, Benny De Kalo, launched Worthy in the spring of 2015 as a platform for selling all jewelry. But the company reached a pivot point in 2016 when managers realized their clients were overwhelmingly divorced single mothers restarting and redesigning their lives.
They see this platform as an opportunity to put the ring to better use," Herbst said. "We have heard from women who told us they used the money from the sale of the rings for education, rent, vacations, piano lessons and rainy day funds."
Renberg said she set the minimum bid for her ring at $2,500. Four days after it went to auction, it sold for $2,555. After Worthy collected a 20 percent seller's fee, she received a check for $2,044.
The buyer also received a story that she wrote about the many places the ring had been during her marriage. That's not something most sellers do, but she saw it as a therapeutic exercise for herself.
She wrote of how it went diving in Belize and climbed the Tikkal ruins of Guatamala on her honeymoon. It hiked on the Great Wall of China. It spent the night in the freezing cold of the Ice Hotel in Quebec City. It viewed the beautiful mountain ranges in Patagonia in Chile.
It saw the sunset over the Grand Canyon. It went swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, and sparkled under the Northern Lights.
It got drenched in the mighty spray from the Brazilian Iguazu Falls. It climbed Machu Picchu and petted Llamas. It went tango dancing in Buenos Aires. It went scuba diving in Honduras. It hula danced in Hawaii. It prayed in front of the Wailing Wall in Old Jerusalem.
"I wanted whomever gets this ring to know where it has been, what it has meant, and to tell them I hope ... that they will write their own chapter of love and adventure," she said.