A RISE in demand for second-hand jewellery over the Christmas period helped a UK pawnbroker weather falling gold prices.

H and T Group said buoyant trade over the festive quarter saw like-for-like sales increase 56 per cent, with gross profits up 18 per cent.

The figures come after a 12 per cent drop in retail sales in the previous six months.

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The firm has stores in Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Durham City, and said demand over Christmas was strong across its entire range, with some high-value pieces sold for up to 20,000.

John Nichols, H and T Groups chief executive, said strong jewellery sales had offset price worries as it focused on selling items rather than smelting them down.

He said: "There are some green shoots on the high street, and there's also good value in second hand jewellery.

"People are beginning to understand that."

The results come after rival Albemarle and Bond last month put itself up for sale after poor trading caused by weakening prices and rising competition.

The UK's second largest chain of pawnbrokers, it has branches in Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Sunderland.