Spiralling house prices, surging energy bills and rising food and fuel costs are forcing debt-ridden residents to pawn their precious items in exchange for cold hard cash.
According to Spencer Dryer, area manager of The Gold Shop (Brixey's) - a London-based chain of pawnbrokers - the number of customers to the Hayes branch, in Coldharbour Lane, has been steadily rising, with no sign of slowing.
He said: "We have noticed a 50 per cent increase in the last three months.
"Recently, people have been bringing in jewellery and watches from prestigious brands such as Cartier, Rolex and Omega, to stave off their cash flow problems.
"We have also noticed a rise in engagement and wedding rings - in fact, the number of wedding rings being pawned has probably gone up by about 50 per cent - but we hardly had any a few months ago."
When customers pawn their goods, they get 75 per cent of an item's current second hand value, which is about half of the average new value, and they have up to seven months to redeem their goods. So, if a customer pawns a £1,000 diamond ring, they stand to receive around £375 in exchange.
Mr Dryer said: "Currently 85 per cent of customers come back, although we anticipate this figure will get worse as time goes on."
More customers are also turning to pawnbrokers instead of banks to pay in their cheques.
Graham Tomlin is director of M 4 Money Credit Union, a not-for-profit organisation, which offers financial assistance to borough residents.
He has the following tips for dealing with debt:
Prioritise your debts and pay your rent, water and electricity first. [25a0] Make arrangements for your other debts - contact the Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) or your local credit union for advice on how to deal with creditors and rising interest rates.
Remember that as more people experience financial difficulty, services such as the CAB will become harder to access, so try to book your appointment as soon as possible.
Don't bury your head in the sand - the only way to deal with debt is to face it head on.
M 4 Money offers loans from £50 to £500, and unlike doorstep lenders - whose interest rates can be as much as 180 per cent - an average loan of £100 will accumulate just £13 interest in a 12 month period. For further information, call 020 8573 8010.