Trein’s Track

While other businesses have come and gone in Dixon, Ill., Trein’s Jewelry has stayed put. When the jeweler (originally named Dodge & Kling) first opened in the spring of 1883, various businesses—including a housecleaner, a bank, and a theater, according to old newspaper clippings—were in operation in downtown Dixon.

One practice, in particular, may have helped Trein’s endure for so many decades: Each of the owners has traveled the world to find the most interesting karat-gold jewelry, silver and plated items, gold pens, spectacles, cutlery, pocket knives, music boxes, clocks, and watches for its Midwestern customers.

The store has passed through the hands of numerous families. E.L. Kling and S.S. Dodge opened the store, then sold it to the Treins (the family from which the store takes its name). It was later sold to the Wolf family, the Hesses, and finally to the current owners, the Brantleys.Ever since the store opened, its owners have made periodic trips to Europe for business as well as pleasure. Co-founder S.S. Dodge, for example, journeyed to his native Sweden for a visit, stopping in other parts of Europe along the way. E.L. Kling, too, went to Europe on buying trips, bringing back with him “a large stock of watches and jewelry,” according to old Dixon newspaper reports.

Today, the Brantley family is no stranger to international travel: Members fly to South America for colored stones, Belgium for diamonds, and Italy for some of their karat-gold jewelry. But their mode of travel is a far cry from that of their predecessors. “Kling went by boat to Europe [before the turn of the century]—that must have taken such a long time!” notes Linda Brantley, a registered jeweler and certified gemologist appraiser. “Sometimes I’ll just go [on European buying trips] for four days.”

The demands of the jewelry business sometimes require journeys to even more remote places. In 1998, Brantley traveled to Tanzania, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, and visited the Merilani tanzanite mine. “I went to celebrate my 50th birthday,” Brantley says.

While touring the mines, she was shocked to see what she described as “primitive” mine entrances that resembled “mole holes.” Three months after Brantley’s trip, a devastating flood wreaked havoc on the tanzanite mines, killing many of the miners. Today, she’s relieved to see the U.S. jewelry industry supplying funds and relief efforts to that part of the world. “I’m glad to see our industry trying to help the tanzanite mines be safer,” says Brantley. “Tanzanite is an important product to U.S. jewelers.”