Gut instinct, charming manner and a Yul Brenner-like profile have served Yossi Dina well over his 53 years. The former Israeli army commando and son of a Tel Aviv baker has, after a quarter-century of collateral lending in Los Angeles, been dubbed "Pawnbroker to the Stars." Don't bother bringing him grandpa's pocket watch in hopes of a quick $100. Befitting its address, Dina's South Beverly-Wilshire Jewelry & Loan specializes in loans sometimes million-dollar loans backed by Bulgari watches, van Gogh paintings and vintage Porsches. Dina and his staff do more than help out temporarily cash-strapped film stars and Bel Air matrons. His loans have helped finance film productions and have enabled art galleries to quickly pounce on a hot acquisition. Even some high net worth individuals, weary of stock market volatility, are investing cash into Dina's businesses, such as the Dina Collection, which showcases estate sale gems from the likes of the late Lana Turner, a former customer. The onetime workaholic has learned to scale back in recent years, and spends down time with nearly daily sweat-drenched Bikram yoga classes and with runs on the beach outside his historic Malibu beach house, built by singing and film legend Al Jolson in the 1920s.

Question: You don't appear to wear too much of your own jewelry, do you?

Answer: No, just watches, but important watches. And this good luck charm (hanging from his neck on a leather cord), which was a gift. I don't like jewelry on me, which is a funny thing to say about someone who sells very expensive jewelry. It's a personality thing. I might wear a watch with a lot of diamonds to an important event to show off, but it's for fun. I wouldn't do it every day.

Q: Do you sometimes keep a piece of art for yourself?

A: A few times a year I'll take something home for myself. I like impressionists. I collect watches, about six or seven right now. I just bought this Patek Philippe 2499 for $400,000.

Q: Did you get a deal on that?

A: It was a deal because it will keep going up in value, big time. And if I ever need the money, I can sell it.

Q: Any of your family in the business?

A: Nobody in my family wants to be me. They hate my business. I offered my brother the chance, and he said he would not take it as a gift. They don't want my stress, they don't want my life. You have to love this business; you have to have a passion. You cannot just do it because you have to do it.


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