Diamonds aren't necessarily forever. At least not in Japan, where jewelry owners are unloading unwanted jewels for cash at a record pace and shipping them off to buyers in China and India.

The appeal of gem-encrusted rings and earrings that were part of the luxury fashions of the 1980s and 1990s has faded as the population ages and the economy languishes. In a country that doesn't have any diamond mines and was the second-largest buyer of the stone less than a decade ago, exports of used diamonds are up 77 percent this year, Finance Ministry data show.

"I want to spend the money for traveling or dinner rather than just holding the diamond in my closet," a 64-year-old housewife, who asked to be identified by her first name, Mitsuko, said after selling her two-carat diamond ring at a Komehyo Co. store in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district. She declined to say how much she got, except to say that it was less than what she paid 30 years ago.