Nestled on quaint Main Street in Barrington, M.J. Miller & Company has been offering a premiere collection of fine diamonds and gems to the North Shore for 40 years.
Photograph by Jim Prisching
When he was only 11 years old, Michael J. Miller sold his first diamond. By the time he was 15, he was already traveling to New York to the gem-cutting factories. Now, as the founder and owner of a successful fine jewelry business, M.J. Miller & Company in Barrington, Michael uses his lifelong knowledge of the industry on a daily basis, providing superior and unique products to North Shore residents, as well as clients in all 50 states and 13 foreign countries.
Michael’s fascination with diamonds and fine jewelry was sparked at an early age. As a child, he enjoyed collecting stones and rock hunting. His father, a war veteran, started a small watch-repair jewelry store within a drugstore in North Dakota, where Michael and his siblings were born and raised. Although he was certain that he wanted to pursue a career in the gem business, Michael’s parents were adamant that their children receive formal educations. As a result, he went to school to become a registered pharmacist, and then worked in the pharmacy field for several years until he had enough money to start his own gem business—which he opened in Barrington 40 years ago.
As he set out to establish his business in the community, Michael recalled the important lessons and advice he had received years earlier. When he was only 16, Michael had traveled to New York City to see a jewelry store owned by Harry Winston. During his time at the store, Michael had learned a great deal about the business from Harry. “He said to me, ‘Mike, the best advice for anyone in this industry is that everything you own should be the best. If you always own the top 1 percent in the market, treat your customers well, and deliver quality products, you’ll be successful,’” Michael says. “And I believed in that. I’ve always stuck to the very high-end products. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive product, but everything I sell —whether it’s $100 or $1 million—will be the best I can obtain.”
With 50 years of experience in the fine jewelry industry, Michael has seen just about everything. “There are a lot of people in the junk market,” he explains. “People will give you things manufactured in India and China, but if you ever go to sell it, it’s worth scrap metal. But I’ve always stayed with the finer quality, because it’s a better investment for my clientele.” When it comes to selecting gems and diamonds for his store, Michael is truly willing to go the distance; he always travels to the locations where the diamonds are actually processed. Trips to Tel Aviv, Antwerp, Amsterdam, New York City, Puerto Rico, Africa, and South America have yielded some of his finest products.
Though M.J. Miller & Company specializes in fine-quality diamonds, the business also boasts many unique colored stones, natural-colored diamonds, and other rare products from all over the world. With a single location, the company’s entire collection of fine jewelry and giftware is conveniently located under one roof, yet the products are so superior and diverse that the collection has been identified by other jewelry experts as the best one west of New York City. Designers at the store can also sketch and custom-make anything. “It’s only limited by imagination,” Michael says. “Jewelry is a reflection of our personalities, and if someone expresses their particular desire for a product, we can accommodate them.”
Because he lives his dream each day he comes into his store, Michael cannot imagine life without his work, and he has no impending plans for retirement. “This is what I enjoy doing,” he says. “It would be counterproductive to retire.” At the end of the day, he also finds it very fulfilling to help his clients make some of the most important purchases of their lives. “We’ve gotten letters and calls from people who are ecstatic with what they have bought,” he explains. “We sell happiness—and if we don’t do that, we haven’t succeeded. We make sure that the purchaser and the recipient are both thrilled, and as much as anyone can humanly do that, I think we are succeeding at that point.”
M.J. Miller & Company is located at 123 W. Main Street in Barrington. For more information, call 847-381-7900, or visit mjmillerjewelers.com.