American Jewelry and Loan is owned by Les Gold, a 62-year-old man who is the son of a pawnbroker who once owned Sam's Loans, a now-defunct pawnshop on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Les first opened American Jewelry at the Green Eight Shopping Center on 8 Mile Road in Oak Park in 1978, moving to its present location in 1993.
In 2011, American Jewelry expanded to its second location when it acquired Premier Jewelry and Loan in Pontiac; the new location was featured in the first few episodes of Hardcore Pawn's fifth season and in two episodes of the sixth season, where Seth deliberates selling the Pontiac location behind Les's back.
Les's only son, Seth, a graduate of the University of Michigan who initially pursued a career in medicine before joining the family business, is the general manager, Les's business partner, and handles the shop's marketing. Seth claims that if it wasn't for him, the shop's only marketing would be "an ad in the Yellow Pages". The co-manager is Les's daughter, Ashley (a college graduate from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in business administration and a graduate diamond certification from the Gemological Institute of America), who, as the series debuted, returned to the shop after taking some time off for maternity leave. The sibling rivalry between her and Seth is a common element of many episodes.
In December 2015, it was announced that Ashley would be departing from the show. No new episodes have aired since, although this didn't stop American Jewelry from opening further locations — in fact, the business has only continued to grow. A third location opened in June of 2016 when it acquired Joey’s Pawn Shop in Hazel Park, and a fourth opened in early 2021 in an ex-Payless Shoe Source store in Southgate.
- "Angry Black Man" Stereotype: Justified in that a very large percentage of all customers who get screen time are angry and Detroit is over 85% black.
- Berserk Button: While they may have their disagreements, don't threaten the store, talk down about the city of Detroit, or either Ashley or Les. Those are the things that are no-fooling guaranteed to have you thrown out the store, by both Ashley and Seth at the same time if needed. Les reacts more to the threats than Ashley or Seth do though.
- It's rare that an episode goes by without some customer's Berserk Button being pressed, for example, when they're told that an item they thought was really valuable isn't, or they run into a difficulty of some kind at the redeem window (usually because they didn't bring their receipt/ticket with them or they overlooked something else important like the due date for payments). This invariably leads to the unhappy customer dropping a Cluster F-Bomb (see below).
- In one episode, a well-to-do-looking white customer got in an argument with Les and started making antisemitic remarks. Les, who is Jewish, predictably did not respond well to this.
- Butt-Monkey: Bobby J. If there's a demeaning crap job to do or a humiliating item one of the Golds wants to test, Bobby J is usually chosen. A particularly good example is Les putting Bobby J in a sandwich board and walking the sidewalk to try and sell watch bands. A passing motorist threw a water bottle at him.
- Catchphrase: Les usually mentions in his segments that "If you do X, they will be more than happy to do Y." (For example: If you come in acting calm and civilised, we will be more than happy to do business with you)
- Chick Magnet: Rich, who often has to deal with attractive female customers flirting with him.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Les Gold's wife Lili was featured in early promotions and appeared occasionally in the first season, but disappeared from the show afterwards. Similarly, Robo, the original head of security on the pilot, was temporarily suspended for inappropriately kissing an employee, but was never seen on the show again.
- Clashing Cousins: Ashley and her cousin Karen. After Les hires Karen as a manager, Ashley constantly felt Les is favoring Karen over her, and even storms out of the store on one occasion.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Hardly an episode goes by that a dissatisfied customer doesn't drop one of those (and ends up getting escorted out of the store for his or her pains).
- Cool Old Guy: Les.
- Darker and Edgier: Compare and contrast with Pawn Stars: that program focuses on the items being bought and sold, whereas Hardcore Pawn is all about the drama - the clashes between Ashley and Seth, the Hair-Trigger Temper customers, Les' never-ending search for new ways to make profit.
- Easily Forgiven: Ashley spends an entire episode with a serious attitude insulting both customers and her family, sometimes going out of her way to do so, and cost pretty much every sale in the episode. What she does would have gotten anyone fired, family or not. Why did she do it? Because it was her birthday and no one wished her a Happy Birthday. It was then revealed that they did not forget and there was a surprise party set up for her. The end of the episode treats it as if all was forgiven despite how out of control she acted. It isn't surprising that some might accuse the show of being a Kayfabe after seeing this.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Quite a few customers qualify (see the Berserk Button entry above). Sometimes, Ashley counts, as seen by an episode where she refused a deal after a customer made a joke at her expense.
- Jerkass: A lot of the customers.
- Seth also counts on certain occasions, particularly when he's mixing it up with Ashley. On one occasion, Seth is in charge of the store during a public holiday, and forgets to bank. As a result, the store is short on cash, with no way to transact with cash-paying customers, and Seth deliberately avoids informing Les about the situation for fear of being criticized. Ashley instead informs Les about his serious mistake, which could've costed the store thousands. Les reveals to Seth that he has stockpiles of emergency cash in his safe and resolves the situation, but instead of taking responsibility, Seth rages at Ashley for informing Les.
- Kayfabe: The show shares this perception in common with many other shows on the TruTV network. Elements such as (almost always) black customers going ballistic about something they've bought or are trying to pawn or sell, and the bickering between Ashley and Seth, as well as someone bringing in something unusual to sell and Les (or occasionally Seth) getting all excited about it, turn up in literally every episode to the point that it's easy to conclude that those things are deliberately hyped up, if not outright scripted, to make the show more exciting.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After the shop's chief of security is caught repeatedly stealing from the shop, Seth insists on searching all the employees when they leave that evening. The following day, much of the staff calls out sick in protest, leaving the shop extremely short-handed.
- No Swastikas: An aversion with interesting reasoning - unlike Rick Harrison, Les Gold has no problem purchasing Nazi memorabilia, as shown by one episode when a customer tried to sell him a wristwatch allegedly worn by Hitler's wife Eva Braun, which Les only declined because he couldn't be convinced of its authenticity. Ironically, being Jewish, Les wanted to buy the items to teach his grandchildren on what his grandparents went through.
- Papa Wolf: Les towards customers who disrespect his kids. After one customer made lewd comments about Ashley, Les wasn't too pleased with him.
- Scary Black Man: The shop employs several of these gentlemen as security guards. They will throw belligerent customers out of the shop at least Once an Episode, if not more often.
- Sibling Rivalry: Seth and Ashley. Les tries to keep a lid on it, though with doubtful success. Ashley has stormed out of the store on at least one occasion because Seth pushed one button too many.
- Things came to a head in a recent pair of episodes where Seth and Ashley were instructed by Les to work together on improving the Internet sales section of the business, but spent so much time bickering and so little time communicating that Ashley ended up shipping a valuable Winter Olympics 2002 torch to an overseas customer without getting clearance from Seth. The shipping company destroyed the torch because it's against regulations to ship flammable material, and Les ended up giving both of his children a royal chewing-out and taking over the Internet sales department himself.
- Special Guest:
- NHL player Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings, who initially appeared to sell his items but was hired as an entry level stockbroker.
- Wrestling legend Lex Luger appeared in one episode, selling his old WWF costumes for charity.
- Take That!: In the pilot episode, Les states "We don't call the experts, we are the experts".
- Voice of Reason: It usually fluctuates between Les, Seth and Ashley over who's fighting who with the odd one out having to play the peacekeeper.