Christmas boom as gems pawned to settle our bills
Dublin's oldest pawn shops are experiencing a resurgence in business as hard-pressed consumers look for ways to get through the festive period.
While not as widespread as they once were, pawnbrokers are still visible on Dublin's streets -- with their distinctive three golden spheres hanging outside doorways.
"The retail shop is very quiet but the pawn office is pretty busy," Pat Carthy, owner of Carthy's Pawn Shop told the Herald.
Among popular items that are pawned nowadays are engagement rings, bracelets and other items of jewellery.
According to Pat, it is a familiar trend for modern-day pawn shops to see people exchange engagement rings for some quick cash to help them through an expensive period like Christmas.
Mr Carthy told the Herald that people pawn expensive items to get them through the short-term.
"They're happy if they can get some money -- they can pawn it for four months and then there's plenty of time to come back and collect it."
His pawnbroker business on Marlboro Street has been in the family since it was founded by his father 57 years ago.
"There are an awful lot of places now where you can sell your gold and they melt it down, but we offer the customer something different and ask for identification to ensure that the business is legitimate and people can come back for their goods," said Mr Carthy.
On Capel Street, Brereton's pawnbrokers are also enjoying a boom in business.
Despite a resurgence in business during the Celtic Tiger years, the pawn shop has come back into fashion again.
"People just use it basically as a short-term loan," a spokesperson for Brereton's said.
Carthy's and Brereton's are two of few traditional pawnbrokers left in Dublin.
Many of the other old style pawnbrokers have reinvented themselves as gold merchants.
However, these differ from pawnbrokers in that they don't offer customers the chance to buy the items back.
"It is tough to pawn things like engagement rings but it's worth it for a few bob," the Brereton's spokesperson told the Herald.
"There were always people needing to pawn -- not everyone did well in the boom."
Michael Kilcoyne of the Consumer Association of Ireland told the Herald: "It's an area of growing business because of the situation people are finding themselves in.
"It is regrettable that it has come to this."