The Good Life: Accessory: John Miller

A Princeton lapidary’s prehistoric inspiration

John Miller is living the new American dream: He quit a lucrative corporate job to do what he really loves. And what did he gamble it all for? A bunch of rocks. As a lapidary, Miller travels the world to collect Earth’s treasures and turns them into jewelry and crafts at Tomorrow’s Heirlooms, his Princeton store. "I found this 60-pound T-rex bone on a camping trip when I was 14," says Miller. "I watched it being cut and polished, and I was in love." With that fascination, plus a few classes and a natural mechanical aptitude (he’s also a Mensa member), Miller began setting stones as a teenager, his way. "Dyed-in-the-wool lapidaries think you have to follow the rules," he says. "But my pieces usually aren’t standard facets like round or square. They’re all different shapes." And because Miller’s one-stop shop offers restorations, repairs and custom designs, there’s no typical workday: He could be splicing picture jasper to make his signature landscape pendants one day; the next, he’s restoring an antique, like the rare 150-year-old star-ruby necklace that he just (tearfully) parted with for a whopping 25K. Or he might be chatting with regulars, like the guy from Seattle who keeps 30 pieces on layaway to be shipped out when he needs a gift, or the cruise director who hunted Miller down after noticing a passenger wearing his work. Miller’s advice on turning a hobby into a career: "If it’s important enough, you’ll learn to live on a little less. I hated my job for 22 years, and now every rock I cut is a new adventure."

Tomorrow’s Heirlooms, 2 Chambers Street, Princeton, 609-921-9440;

Around the Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.