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Gem Legend Bill Heher Dies

Aug 8, 2022 11:59 AM   By Joshua Freedman
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RAPAPORT... William (Bill) Heher, president of Rare Earth Mining Company and an important figure in the US gem trade, died on August 1 at the age of 72.

Born in September 1949, Heher began his career as a teacher, according to an obituary on memorial site He later started importing fine gems and fossils from across the world.

The profession took him to varied destinations. On his travels, Heher always “immersed himself into the culture, made lifelong friends, and intertwined business and pleasure seamlessly through his career,” the obituary said.

It was an overseas trip of a different sort that initially sparked his interest in precious stones. While climbing Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Heher came across a parcel of gems, bartered for them, and carried them up and back down. On returning home, “he showed them off to friends and family, and after a week, the parcel was sold,” according to a 2021 article in Prism, the magazine of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA). “Bill has been hooked ever since.”

In 1968, he founded Rare Earth Mining Company, which now services more than 20 countries and works with over 300 materials. He also opened the Rare Earth Gallery in Redding, Connecticut, and built a mine where children could hunt for treasures and hold birthday parties. Heher was a board member at AGTA.

In a 2011 interview with Rapaport Magazine, Heher described his fondness for picture jasper, a popular gemstone so called because its appearance mimics that of a scene or painting.

“Looking at slabs and cut stones of picture jasper is a painter’s experience,” he said at the time.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Cynthia Lynn Manson Heher, as well as two sons and many other relatives.

“Devoted to his family, the family gemstone business, to education and adventure, and to AGTA, Bill’s loss will be felt deeply,” AGTA said.

Image: Bill Heher in around 2013. (AGTA)
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