In Memoriam: Mineral Specimen & Gem Collector Barry Yampol Dies at 85

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

Longtime mineral specimen and gem collector Barry Yampol died peacefully in his sleep in June. He was 85. Yampol is survived by a sister, two children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

Born in 1937, Yampol grew up in Brooklyn and studied at both the University of Miami and The City College of New York. While the collecting bug struck him early—“Around age 5 he pried a garnet crystal from a neighbor’s property,” says son David Yampol—he didn’t become a world-class mineral specimen collector until after he found success in the telecommunications business. That career funded his vast collections, which he generously loaned to important entities like the Smithsonian Institution, Sorbonne University, the Yale Peabody Museum, and more.

Barry Yampol in Idar-Oberstein Photo: C.R. “Cap” Beesley
Barry Yampol in Idar-Oberstein
Photo: C.R. “Cap” Beesley

“He collected some of the world’s largest and best gem crystals, mostly from Brazil, where he had ongoing operations and agents actively seeking the best for ‘Mr. Barry,’” adds David.

While he had a great deal of Tourmaline, particularly Rubellite, Azurite was likely one of his favorites. “He did name his mineral company after it,” notes David.

Gem dealer friends and peers knew him for his collecting and mining endeavors—including a Brazilian Imperial Topaz mine and a gold mine in California—and he often sponsored scientific inquiries into the physical nature of crystals and the field of crystallography.

John Bradshaw of John J. Bradshaw bonded with Barry over their common interests of rough and faceted gems.

“He attended every AGTA GemFairTM Tucson and was at GemFairTM in Denver last year,” he says. “He was not in the business, but he was the business—well-known by suppliers of fine minerals around the world. Over the years, I helped him with evaluations of some of his acquisitions of rough and faceted gem materials. He was an avid collector in many categories, from minerals, gems, books, and mining memorabilia. I managed to acquire several important gemstones that he eagerly purchased for his USA collection. A couple that come to mind are a purple Apatite from the Pulsifer Quarry in Auburn, Maine, and the largest, finest red Zincite from Franklin, New Jersey.”

Gemologist Cap Beesley had the good fortune of spending “six days straight” with Barry during Tucson this year. Beesley had a long-standing relationship with Barry that included both professional services like lab consultations and social scenarios, such as attending fireworks displays at the collector’s home on Long Island. Other adventures led them to the German gem-cutting capital of Idar-Oberstein and the Sainte Marie International Mineral and Gem Show in France.

“We enjoyed each other’s company, and our shared interests enabled us to pursue a number of important projects together,” says Beesley. “Barry was brilliant, with the added quality of an excellent capacity for recall. He could tell a story that happened 20 years ago like it just happened last week. He also had an impressive history of creativity in both the world of business and building important collections in a variety of arenas.”

The pair collaborated on research into gems and minerals of Kashmir, and gem and mineral projects for the United Nations Development Programme, the latter involving an event keynote speech from astronaut Charles Duke, the Apollo 16 Moon walker.

A passion project of Barry’s that didn’t come to fruition was his desire to build a museum adjacent to his Long Island home. “Anyone who knew Barry was familiar with his plans for an elaborate museum complex,” says Beesley.

The plan was ambitious and included underground exhibits and passageways and various structures for lectures and exhibitions, all of which would have put his personal collections in a permanent home for the public to enjoy.

“He saw himself as a caretaker of these treasures for the benefit of future generations,” adds Beesley.

Barry Yampol donated his mineral and gem specimens, scientific instruments, extensive library, and other scientific paraphernalia to a charitable trust that was set up to conserve, preserve, and protect the items for all time.

“There are a number of important collectors in the world, but I don’t know anyone else who possessed the capability and understanding that Barry brought to the acquisition of important materials,” adds Beesley. “He will be missed, and Tucson will never be the same.”

This is proprietary content for AGTA and may not be reproduced.