Heartbreak diamonds find new homes online

(CNN) -- Joshua Opperman thought he'd met the woman he'd marry and spend the rest of his life with. But when they broke up a few years ago, he was left with a broken heart, an expensive ring and an idea that he's turning into a business.

Opperman said he was depressed after the split and even more depressed when he tried to sell the engagement ring he'd spent most of his life savings on.

"I tried to sell the ring back where I bought it and they wanted to give me 32 percent back," he said.

The 29-year-old real estate broker decided to open the online jewelry auction site "I Do ... Now I Don't" after reading an article about other people in the same predicament. He runs the site with his sister Mara and three employees. (Watch tips for a happy Valentine's Day )

"I wanted to make a safe venue for buying and selling diamond engagement rings," Opperman said.

Opperman didn't have any jewelry experience, so he teamed up with a jeweler in New York City's diamond district.

"When someone wins the (auction), the ring is sent to us and the money's sent to us so our in house jeweler can make sure the diamond is real, first of all and you're getting exactly what was offered," he said.

If the ring doesn't match the description, they send it back and refund the buyer's money. If the sale goes through, "I Do ... Now I Don't" keeps 5 percent of the price.

The jewelry ranges in price and quality -- from a pearl and silver ring the seller hopes to get $150 for to a 3 ct. Tacori platinum engagement ring with an $18,000 minimum bid.

Working with the shards of other people's shattered relationships might sound depressing, but Opperman said he's getting a lot of positive feedback.

"I feel good about it because they tell me the stories and then they say 'this is a great idea, I'm glad you came up with this Web site,'" he said.

He said he gets lots of e-mail from potential sellers and plans to add a "tell us your stories" page to his Web site.

One person, who wanted to sell a $1,200 engagement set wrote that "I need to find a way to get rid of them, I have way too many memories with them sitting around the house." (Watch how a radio station showed its Valentine's spirit )

"I just want to say that there is a silver lining in some clouds," wrote a woman who said she was having her "nest egg" appraised.

Amanda Gizzi, a Spokeswoman for the Jewelry Information Center, says it's important to be able to contact the jeweler, especially when buying online.

"Buying jewelry is something that's very visual and when you can't actually see and feel the piece, you need to be able to ask those questions," she said.

She also recommended getting an independent appraisal when buying or selling jewelry.

"It's always good to have something that's independently appraised. You don't want to buy anything that has an appraisal coming from the person who sold it to you or is looking to buy it from you," Gizzi said.

Opperman said they'd only made a handful of sales so far, but things were picking up enough that he may have to quit his real estate job.

He said buyers don't seem to be superstitious about buying break-up diamonds; or at least not superstitious enough to pass up a good deal. Most rings sell for about 50 to 60 percent of their asking price.

"There really hasn't been any questions about whether they're buying a doomed engagement ring," he said. "It might be doomed for somebody and it might be better luck for someone else."