Joshua Opperman, founder of www.idonowidont.com
Several rings offered on www.idonowidont.com
Aug. 11 (Bloomberg) -- After 35-year-old mortgage broker Steven Sherman and his fiancee broke up last year, he kept the 1.7-carat diamond engagement ring he had bought for $8,000. The jeweler who sold it to him offered $2,800 to take it back.
``I was kind of shocked,'' Sherman said.
The Edison, New Jersey, bachelor ultimately unloaded the gem for $5,800 on idonowidont.com, one of at least three Internet companies aimed at former lovers who want to vent hurt feelings and sell relics of past relationships. About 1.7 million used engagement and wedding rings with a retail value of $4.2 billion become available annually, estimates David Becker, chief executive officer of idonowidont.com in New York.
``We have found a market that's underserved,'' Becker, 49, said in an interview. ``It is good for the seller to move on, and there are people who want something vintage and used.''
Then there are the highly public celebrity sales, like the Christie's International auction in 2006 at which actress Ellen Barkin dumped $20 million worth of jewelry given to her by her ex-husband Ron Perelman.
Wives tend to keep engagement jewelry, although its value often is added to the marital assets divided between the soon-to-be-divorced spouses, according to Gregg Herman, a Milwaukee attorney who chairs the American Bar Association's family-law section. If the split takes place before the wedding, men typically get the stone back because it's a gift conditioned on marriage, he said.
Siblings Mara and Joshua Opperman, co-founders of idonowidont.com, said they started their business after Josh's girlfriend ended their engagement and he tried to sell the diamond he'd given her.
While eyeing $3,000 diamond and sapphire rings, customers can read articles about relationships (``If there are ghosts from the past, they will constantly haunt your new marriage'') and watch music videos of ``best breakup songs'' such as ``About to Come Alive.''
``We decided to take a humorous approach because breakups are so disheartening,'' said Mara, 28.
The Oppermans have sold about 250 rings for $1,000 to $30,000 since early last year, Josh said. He listed his own gem and received 70 percent of the retail value for the 2.7-carat diamond ring that cost him ``well above $10,000,'' he said. The retailer who sold it to him offered less than half.
The company authenticates the jewelry after a buyer and seller agree on a price and charges a 5 percent transaction fee, said Josh, 31.
Megahn Perry and her stepmother Marie, who live in Los Angeles, say they founded exboyfriendjewelry.com in February to create an online community where people can sell baubles from former lovers and ``get those tangible memories out the door.'' Their slogan is, ``You don't want it. He can't have it back.''
Sellers post classified ads for free and deal directly with buyers. The company doesn't charge a transaction fee. Customers are advised to guard against fraud by using a third party such as escrow.com, which collects, holds and disburses funds for a fee.
Visitors are also encouraged to post their tales of heartbreak.
`Mr. Lyin' Cheatin'
``I thought I had found Mr. Wonderful, but he was Mr. Lyin' Cheatin','' said a recent post by the seller of a $1,000 marquise-cut diamond engagement ring.
Divorceyourdiamond.com, started in May, directs sellers to participating jewelers in the U.S. and Canada. If they agree on a price, the retailer buys the ring on the spot. No service charges are applied, the Internet site says.
What to do with the sale proceeds are discussed at divorce360.com. One visitor named ``JLK'' posted a message on the Web site saying she spent her jewelry-sale windfall on breast implants. ``Thanks, ex-hubby!'' she wrote.
Some spouses save their gems for their children, or have them remade into new pieces. For many exiting a relationship, though, dumping jewelry is a part of closure.
``I didn't want to have anything to do with the ring,'' said Dana Shapiro, a 28-year-old Manhattan preschool teacher. She turned to idonowidont.com after her one-year marriage ended in divorce in late 2007.
Keeping the ring would have been ``bad luck,'' she said.