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Joseph A. Freilich

Joseph Aaron Freilich was born in Queens, New York on September 27, 1952, the son of Riva (Gitlitz) and Herman (or Hyman) Freilich, a commercial photographer. His family was Jewish, and emigrated from Poland to the US in 1929. Joe received his first exposure to minerals at the tender age of six, when a neighbor gave him a small collection that would otherwise have been discarded. His interest was sparked, and for his seventh birthday his parents gave him a copy of Pough's Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (1953). Soon he was trading with other young collectors, and visited some local quarries in search of specimens, though he initially found very little.

In 1960 Joe made his first visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and was inspired by the extensive mineral collection on exhibit there. He purchased more mineral specimens with whatever funds he could muster, and eventually started collecting coins, stamps and rare books as well.

Joe attended college on a music scholarship, and there he met his future wife, Robin Greenberg; together they had two children: Heather and Lee. After college he went on to law school, but left school in 1974 to join a business involved in precious-metal casting. He worked there for the next 11 years, gaining experience in jewelry manufacturing and sales, before being recruited to join M. Fabrikant & Sons as a full partner. He thereafter concentrated on building a strong position for the company in Asia, manufacturing low-cost promotional jewelry, and designing jewelry until the company had become the largest importer of Asian jewelry in the world, and also the largest diamond and jewelry company in the world. By 1990 he had also formed several joint ventures of his own in Asia.

In 1992 Joe's interest in mineral collecting reawakened when he attended the Munich Show. He began purchasing high-quality mineral specimens and also valuable antiquarian mineralogical books, having been inspired by the fantastic library of his friend, Herb Obodda. Bookseller Ed Rogers and bibliographer Curtis Schuh served as his mentors in book collecting, and Joe enlisted the help of long-time mineral connoisseur David P. Wilber to serve as his advisor and purchasing agent for world-class mineral specimens.

At its peak Joe's mineral collection included about 500 superb specimens, many of which were exhibited at the 2000 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Ninety-five of his specimens were illustrated in a special issue of the Mineralogical Record in January-February 2000. In 2001, however, Joe sold his remarkable mineral and book collections via two spectacular auctions at Sotheby's in New York (The Magnificent Mineral Collection of Joseph A. Freilich, January 11 and 12; and The Magnificent Scientific Library of Joseph A. Freilich, January 10 and 11). The minerals, having been purchased relatively recently, were less successful at the auction than the books, which sold very well. Joe continued collecting minerals and books thereafter, on a smaller scale, and was a regular visitor at the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Joe established an antiquarian book dealership on the side in Bayville, New York, including an auction subsidiary (Freilich Mineral Auctions) and also the Freilich Mineral Gallery, specializing in the sale of mineral specimens. He died in June 2018.

REIF, R. (2000) Sotheby's to sell rocks and books about them. New York Times, December 24.
WILSON, W.E. (2000) The Joseph A. Freilich collection, David P. Wilber curator. Mineralogical Record, 31, 1-80.
SOTHEBY'S (2001) The Magnificent Mineral Collection of Joseph A. Freilich. Sotheby's auction catalog, New York, 228 pp.
SOTHEBY'S (2001) The Magnificent Scientific Library of Joseph A. Freilic. Sotheby's auction catalog, New York; introduction by Jonathan Hill, 478 pp. (Auction held January 10-11, 2001.)
FREILICH, J.A. (1997) M. Fabrikant & Son's Designer Stone, Jewelry Collection. Privately Printed Collection of Patented Stone Cuts by Joseph A. Freilich and Jewelry Displaying Them.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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