Walk into the Suttons & Robertsons showroom on the East Side of Manhattan and it looks like any high-end retailer or auction house: necklaces glittering with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds fill the display cases, and sterling silver knives, forks and spoons sit on a wooden table fit for a monarch. In the private room in back are bigger, shinier versions of the jewels out front.
High on the wall is a royal-looking coat of arms bearing the likenesses of two lions, with the date of the company's founding underneath: 1770. Only on closer inspection does it become clear that between the lions are three balls dangling from a hook—the international symbol for a pawnbroker.
(Read more: Wealthy flock to pawn shops)
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Far from the crusty characters seen in reality shows like Hardcore Pawn and Pawn Stars, this English company has another clientele in mind.
"We focus on the blue-chip, wealthy crowd," said Jeffrey A. Weiss, chief executive of Suttons & Robertsons, which is preparing to open its first New York store this month.
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With almost 250 years of experience in the exclusive world of high-end pawn, Suttons & Robertsons has come to the United States to fill what it believes is a growing need among wealthy Americans who have spent beyond their means and need a quick — and quiet — infusion of cash in exchange for a few cherished baubles they are willing, at least temporarily, to live without.
"There are more and more people who are asset rich and have a temporary liquidity problem," said Mr. Weiss, who at 70 retains the soft Brooklyn accent of his youth. "They're cash constrained. We have the capital to lend up to and beyond $1 million."
Suttons & Robertsons is not alone in the high-value niche of the pawn business.