(Smart Money) — When Jim De Lisa’s chain of six furniture stores went belly-up midrecession, the New Jersey father of five found himself in a fix. He was suddenly unemployed and broke, and his credit score, he says, was “in the crapper.” Pushed to the edge by looming house and car payments, he did the unthinkable: He pawned his wife’s $18,000 engagement ring. But no one ever saw him visit the pawnshop—De Lisa hocked the 1.7-karat stunner over the Internet. Is no industry immune to the inexorable forces of technology and gentrification? These days, even the pawn business is going upscale. Pawn merchants say the recessionary credit crunch is bringing in more middle-class clients along with small businesses seeking short-term loans to meet payroll. Jordan Tabach-Bank, CEO of Beverly Loan Co. in Beverly Hills (“Pawnshop to the Stars”), says he’s seen a flood of doctors, lawyers and accountants hocking valuables to keep their kids in private school. There’s a pawn store reality show airing on the History Channel and an iPhone app to help high-tech indigents locate the nearest pawnbroker. If the trend continues, hocking the family jewels may become as mainstream as applying for a credit card.