BROOKVILLE — The storefront at the corner of Main and Pickering streets, near the Jefferson County Courthouse, housed the H.A. Love Bro. Optometrist and Jewelry store and later Ruffners Jewelry store. It was 1966 and William Allen Tonell, a watchmaker, did the repair work for Ruffners, repairing watches when the store was put up for sale. Tonell purchased the jewelry store and it has been in his family ever since, with his son Mark eventually taking it over.
The elder Tonell had gone to watchmaker school after serving in World War II. “He told me he dispensed aspirin,” Mark Tonell said.
After buying the store, William Tonell and his wife, Delma, worked there. A few years later they would end up running not only the Brookville location but one in Reynoldsville as well from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Tonell said a couple of his aunts also worked at the stores. His dad would also do clock repairs.
“He’d be in the back working on watches,” Tonell said while his mom would run the front end of the store. “Obviously you don’t see as many mechanical watches as you used to,” he said.
When asked if work at the family business was something he always planned or was expected of him, he laughingly replies that he started working there because his dad told him to “get a job.”
Jewelry was not Mark’s chosen career when he was growing up. He attended Jeff Tech (Jefferson County-DuBois Area Vocational-Technical School), studying electronics for three years. “I think I really wanted to be an auto repairman but everybody wanted to do that at Jeff Tech and you can only get so many people in there, so...”
So with his dad telling him he needed to get a job, Mark went on to the Bowman Technical Institute in Lancaster, Pa. It was at Bowman that he learned jewelry repair.
He started working at Tonell’s Jewelry in 1980 after graduating from Bowman.
In the late 1990s, William Tonell retired and Mark took over the business completely and the business has grown, especially the internet side of the business. Mark Tonell has an Ebay store for Tonell Jewelry and does business with customers in 17 different countries.
The internet sales are not the only changes Tonell has seen in the jewelry business over the decades. He says they used to sell 90 percent yellow gold. Nowadays that trend has changed and about 75 percent of the customers prefer white gold. Tonell says that change is partly a result of gold being more expensive now and possibly because younger people are wearing more silver and then turning to white gold as they get older. A type of jewelry that has held true to demand is the Black Hills Gold first introduced some 30 plus years ago. Tonell’s Jewelry still carries it today.
One area that seems to be not as popular anymore is bridal jewelry and not as many people seem to be wearing watches, he says. They are seeing more estate jewelry though. Tonell says they really didn’t have an estate jewelry section at the store until five or six years ago. While 90 percent of that type of jewelry gets melted, Tonell says they try to save the good stuff.
He noted there is more use of contemporary metals rather than just gold and silver. Metals like titanium or stainless steel are popular but they are metals that can’t really be “worked with at all,” Tonell said. “They can’t be sized or anything. You really can’t do anything to them.”
Tonell noted that watch repair is totally different from jewelry repair. He doesn’t repair watches like his father did but he does repair jewelry and can custom make jewelry for his customers. In fact, over the years he has done repair work for five different jewelry stores throughout the years and still does repair work for one other jewelry store currently.
His customers know they will get personal attention and quality work done locally whether they are looking to purchase something new or have repairs made to jewelry that is old and dear.