Sixteen years ago, an ambitious twenty-something Iraqi immigrant sold three pieces of jewelry to Lana Turner. Yossi Dina got such a kick out of the experience that he now does business with celebrities and celebrity-wannabes every day of the week at his Beverly Hills Jewelry and Loan in Beverly Hills, Calif. In his posh not-really-a-pawnshop, Dina buys and sells jewelry and other fine collectibles and offers discreet loan services.
For example, Dina recently loaned $70,000 to the owner of a stunning South Seas pearl and 40-ct. diamond platinum choker. The man—an English film producer and repeat customer—pawned the piece (as well as a number of others in the past year) to support his movie projects. “He always comes back for the jewelry,” says Dina, who estimates that 98% of customers return for pawned items, paying back the loan plus interest, which on a piece like the choker is typically 3%-4% a month for a minimum of three months.
But Dina maintains he isn’t a pawnbroker. Clients refer to him as a jeweler or as a collateral lender. “I don’t deal with ‘desperates,’ or people trying to pay their rent,” he says. Nevertheless, he’s gotten some sweet deals—including a 1981 Super Bowl ring for $5,000—from well-knowns needing quick cash. Dina says he could easily make a profit of $10,000-$15,000 on the ring, but because he has a conscience, he hasn’t sold it. “He’ll come back for it, I know it,” insists Dina. “Or I’ll find him and give it back. This ring means so much to him.”
Not all of Dina’s clients are sentimental about their jewelry.
One new client gave him a yellow emerald-cut diamond ring and a ruby necklace, both made by Cartier, to sell on consignment. “She was dating a celebrity, broke up with him, and just didn’t want the gifts anymore,” Dina explains.
Dina frequently mixes business and pleasure, spending leisure time with customers. Most celebrities are nice, and they trust him, he says. They also provide a steady stream of new jewelry sources and customers.
“I’m going to a party for a client’s baby—a celebrity’s baby,” says Dina. “I met [the actor] through other clients. I’ll meet more when I go.”
One of his most eccentric clients is a “big-time” celebrity who enjoys buying and reselling pricey wristwatches from Dina—as many as 15 a month—just for entertainment. “Sometimes I make a nice profit from him and sometimes I lose money,” explains Dina. “But then we’ll have dinner together. He’s a sick shopper, but he’s fun.”
That kind of openness is atypical, says Dina. Though celebrities know they “belong” to the public—and like or even need that ownership, according to the jeweler—stars normally sell pieces by proxy. “Most people with money have a shopper,” he notes.
But Dina’s unusual inventory enables him to please non-celebrities, too: Many people come to the store looking for pieces previously owned by stars. “A guy called the other day asking for Marilyn Monroe memorabilia,” says Dina.
Ordinary folks also seek out Dina to exchange heirlooms for cash, though not all are pleased by his appraisals. One mature and affluent Southern California woman sporadically brings “expensive” pieces to Dina to sell. “This woman thinks everything is worth more than it really is,” says Dina. “She brings me a ‘$100,000 emerald ring,’ and I tell her the truth, it’s only worth $4,000. Just because a male companion gives you an ‘expensive’ gift doesn’t mean it’s worth a lot.”
The most awkward sales moment for Dina happened when a divorcee, after the demise of her 30-year marriage, tried to pawn her prized 3-ct. D-flawless diamond engagement ring.
Says Dina: “It was a CZ.”