Rare Earth Mining Co.’s Bill Heher Dies at 72

SourcingAug 05, 2022

Rare Earth Mining Co.’s Bill Heher Dies at 72

The passionate gem lover helped bring more than 300 different varieties of stones to the gem trade.

Bill Heher, who founded Rare Earth Mining Company, died Aug. 1. He is pictured here outside the Aricanga Mine in Brazil, where he extracted the tourmaline-in-quartz specimen.
Trumbull, Conn.—William “Bill” Heher, founder of Rare Earth Mining Company and passionate gemstone lover, died Aug. 1 at the age of 72.

Though he started his career as a teacher, Heher eventually went into the world of gems and fossils, bringing interesting and unique pieces to the world through his company.

Heher had a “zest for the unexplored, rarely seen,” according to an online obituary. He started traveling in his 20s, venturing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro—which led to his introduction to gemstones—and visiting cities like Hong Kong; Idar-Oberstein, Germany; São Paolo, Brazil; and New Delhi, India.

Everywhere he went, he immersed himself in the culture and made lifelong friends, seamlessly combining business and pleasure throughout his career, his family said.

Heher opened Rare Earth Mining Co. in 1968; the company works with more than 300 materials and is always a popular booth during the Tucson gem shows.

Heher had an incredible passion for what he did.

An excerpt from a 2021 profile in AGTA’s Prism reads: “His love for his material was something I had never seen before. A few times, my father literally cried at the booth when a customer bought out his ‘My Best’ collection. It contained ‘The Volcano,’ ‘The Eye of the Leopard,’ and a few Munsteiner pieces he wanted to travel with and show to the world. To see them not with him anymore was a very emotional experience for him.”

He also opened and operated the Rare Earth Gallery in Redding, Connecticut, where he constructed a mine where kids could hunt for treasures and have birthday parties.

He was a supporter of experiential education, traveling to mine locations around the world to learn firsthand about gemstones, and loved that his sons share his passions for teaching, adventure, and stones. His son Will is a teacher, and his other son Curtis has taken the reign at Rare Earth. 

Heher served on the board of the American Gem Trade Association, which he called one of his “crowning achievements,” according to the Prism profile.

He was known as a master storyteller with an infectious smile and a passion for life.

“Devoted to his family, the family gemstone business, to education and adventure, and to AGTA, Bill’s loss will be felt deeply,” AGTA said in its ePrism newsletter this week. “Our thoughts are with the Heher family.”

Billi was preceded in death by his brother, John H. Heher; mother, Marion Hoadley Heher; and father, John Sylvester Heher.

He is survived by his wife, Cynthia Lynn Manson Heher; son William Wallace Heher and his wife Julie Shattuck Heher; son Curtis Andrew Heher and his wife Kerry Jane Heher; and many grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday, Aug. 7 from 4-8 p.m. at the Starkweather House at the Nichols Improvement Association, 1773 Huntington Tpke., Trumbull, Connecticut.

His family said to come dressed comfortably to laugh, tell stories, and to celebrate the husband, father, and friend that he was.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked that contributions be made to one of Heher’s passions—the Nichols Improvement Association or Trumbull Little League

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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