In the US it is legally supposed to be a loan, but when you fail to pay the loan the pawn shop gets to keep the items you pawned. The majority of people using pawn shops never intend to recover the items pawned. With jewelry the pawn shop will either scrap them, or if in good enough condition they will sell them as estate pieces. (Estate has come to mean used in the jewelry industry and not items being sold out of an estate anymore.) If the item is sold as estate jewelry the shop makes an even higher return on their investment.
The one businesses I see that are worse for abuse are the Title Loan Businesses.