Dozens of people were gathered on a Manhattan rooftop, nibbling on appetizers, sipping drinks and toasting the author Emma Johnson and her new book, “The Kickass Single Mom.”
Ms. Johnson’s pink dress matched the cover of her book as she drifted through the gathering. The Midtown rooftop was festooned with strings of lights, and featured a spectacular view of the Empire State Building.
The October party was held at the offices of Worthy, a company that buys and sells jewelry, particularly diamond engagement rings, and markets itself to divorced women. That no longer useful ring, it tells them through tools like blogs and partnerships like this book party, may not only bring in some cash but also set them on a new road to personal freedom.
It is a message of empowerment that Worthy hopes will translate into more customers.
“They have taken an industry with a generally negative connotation and spun it into a positive experience,” said John Lincoln, chief executive officer of Ignite Visibility, a search engine optimization and social media marketing company.
Founded by an Israeli businessman, Benny De-Kalo, the company serves as middleman between customers and buyers, who are usually small diamond dealers or jewelry designers. Worthy takes a seller’s and buyer’s fee starting at 20 percent for a $5,000 a ring, less for the more expensive ones. The seller sends the ring to the company, which values it and offers to let the customer auction it off on its website; the seller can pull out of the auction at any point before receiving a minimum bid.
An auction typically lasts two days, said Gil Gadot, Worthy’s chief operating officer. About 20 percent of rings don’t sell because they don’t meet the seller’s minimum. If the item doesn’t sell at auction, there is no fee.
From the way the company’s executives talk, it could be easy to think Worthy’s mission was therapy for divorced women rather than selling jewelry. The staff has been trained to “understand the journey” that customers have been on, a company spokeswoman, Judy Herbst, said. Roy Albers, the company’s chief gemologist, will often get on the phone with a potential seller to explain why a diamond may be worth — or not worth — a certain price.
“The recently divorced have been through fire. They may have been lied to, cheated,” said Mr. Albers, who was formerly chief gemologist for Tiffany & Company. “We do a lot of hand-holding here.”
Stacey Freeman, 45, a divorced single mother of three children, is lifestyle editor for Worthy. She writes three to five articles a month for the company’s site and for outside publications.
“I am that person who went through that divorce,” she said. She hasn’t sold her engagement ring, however. Her mother had it made into a necklace.
“It’s an insurance policy,” she said. “If I need to, it’s salable.”
Her articles and others by writers for the company’s blog almost all focus on life after divorce. There are posts on saving money, dating, traveling and empowerment through living as a single woman.
“It’s a whole emotional campaign,” said Anthony DeMarco, founder of Jewelry News Network, a website about jewelry and watches.
Worthy has also hired the company Outbrain, which helps populate web pages with the ubiquitous “Around the Web” advertisements that can seem like news articles. The articles that Outbrain places on sites can range from straightforward sales pitches to tawdry clickbait, but Worthy has found success with pieces like “What to Do With Your Engagement Ring After Divorce?”
Maura Enright, 49, of Oxford, Conn., is a typical Worthy customer. She was married for 11 years before a divorce in 2012. She held on to her ring for a while, and then decided to see what she could get for it.
“Every time I thought I would get it priced, I felt like I was getting ripped off,” she said. “I didn’t think it was worth it to give it up for a few thousand dollars.” She found Worthy online and reached out, and someone from the company called her back.
“That was key because I’m so busy,” she said. She sold her ring through Worthy for $7,000. Now, she said, “I’ve told all my divorced friends about it.”
The company also runs contests, like the one recently in which women could vie for a chance to be flown to Manhattan for the book party. The winner, Janelle Johnson, 34, of Milwaukee, was awarded airfare and hotel costs for her and a friend, after describing how she is trying to start her own business after the dissolution of her marriage of one year. Worthy even paid for child care for Ms. Johnson’s two children while she was in New York.
She sold her engagement ring through Worthy and got about $350, roughly a quarter of its original price. “I was more than satisfied,” she said, noting that the money helped pay for a few dinners during her trip to Manhattan.
Mr. Gadot said the company had tripled its business, to more than 100 auctions a day from fewer than 30 a year ago. And Mr. Lincoln, of Ignite Visibility, said Worthy had “caught up to major players like WP Diamonds, in terms of keyword ranking and traffic in Google.”
“I assume Worthy began by testing a number of different channels and found that blogging, content and partnerships proved to be the most effective,” said Kevan Lee, director of marketing for Buffer, a social media management platform. “Given that early signal, I’d expect them to stay on this path until it becomes less fruitful.”
Ms. Johnson, whose book was being celebrated at Worthy’s offices, represents the marketing effort at its purest. Worthy has interviews with Ms. Johnson on its website and promotes her book. Ms. Johnson has written about Worthy on her site, wealthysinglemommy.com, and advertises the company on her home page. She also has an affiliate partnership: If Worthy gets a customer through her site, she receives a fee.
“My audience is their audience,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s like a perfect marriage.”
Without the ring.