Graham Ian Sutton, long-time field collector and mineral dealer, was born in Montreal, Quebec, on July 11, 1964, the son of Noreen and Trevor Sutton, an aeronautical engineer. His family moved to Tempe, Arizona, when he was still in infancy, and he grew up there in the midst of Arizona's stimulating mineral atmosphere.
Graham's interest in minerals was kindled in 1976 when, at the age of 12, his family took a vacation through Colorado and he visited a rock shop for the first time (Benjy Kuehling's Columbine Mineral Shop in Ouray). There they cracked open a Mexican geode for him and he was hooked. During his senior year of high school Graham worked various jobs including line cook and carpenter. After graduation his entrepreneurial inclinations took over and he started his own landscaping company, though he also took classes at a local community college.
In 1983 Graham took a Geology class from Ray Grant at Mesa Community College, and Ray invited him to come along with some friends during Christmas break to collect minerals at a mine. Thus his first-ever collecting trip was to the famous Red Cloud mine. Everyone had fun on the trip, and Graham found a wulfenite that he still has in his collection. On that trip he also met well-known mineral dealer Dave Shannon and they became good friends, collecting together off and on for the next 15 years.
The next semester he took a mineralogy class from Armand J. Lombard, and he too became a lifelong friend and mentor. Within a few months of the Red Cloud trip, Graham quit his landscaping business in order to spend more time collecting minerals. Now fatally bitten by the “mineral bug,” he left Mesa Community College after three semesters to pursue an opportunity to mine placer gold near Quartzsite. He also bought and operated a decorative-boulder quarry north of Phoenix. He and Phoenix dealer Bob Lane collected a lot together during that time, and Bob showed him how the mineral business worked. They worked together as partners for about five years. Another of Graham's early mentors was Bill Hawes. In those days there was a pretty large group of field collectors in the Phoenix area, and Graham collected with many of them—all contributing in one way or another to his fascination with mineral collecting and the mineral business.
Graham began working part-time as a commercial specimen miner in 1983, but by 1985 it had become a full-time job. His first Tucson show as a mineral dealer came in 1984, when he shared a room with Bill Hawes at the Travelodge. In subsequent years he shared rooms in Tucson with whomever was willing to have him. He made his first visit to the Denver show in 1988. From 1983 to 1998 Graham was on his own as a mineral dealer, under the name “Graham Sutton Minerals.” He enjoyed collecting any minerals that would sell, of which Arizona had no shortage, and partnered with many other field collectors, always splitting whatever they found. He still has a small collection of self-collected miniatures and thumbnail specimens, but most of what he found was eventually sold to support his business. His labels show his Tempe, Arizona, address in 1983-1990, and his Mesa, Arizona, address in 1990-1998. In 1998 Graham was hired by Bryan Lees' of Collector's Edge Minerals, and thereafter gave up his personal mineral business.
Graham made many collecting trips back to his old stomping grounds at the Red Cloud mine during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1996 he managed the first open pit project there for Wayne Thomson and was there for the “Big Pocket” that year. He then made the big open cut at the Red Cloud mine for Collectors Edge in 2004, the year the Red Gem pocket was discovered.
Graham's work in Arizona has covered most of the state's more famous mineral localities, as well as some of the more obscure ones. Working with George Godas, he reopened the North Geronimo mine, installing a new shaft in 1994. He later expanded the workings there for Collector's Edge in 2004. He also mined the Veta Grande mine near Quartzsite for hematite and faden quartz, the Iron Cap mine for sphalerite and galena; the Finch mine for drusy quartz-coated wulfenite; Stanley Butte for garnets; the Grand reef mine for linarite, cerussite, laurelite and aravaipaite; and the Silver Hill mine for rosasite-aurichalcite-malachite. At the Bagdad mine, Graham and Bruce Barlow collected close to 100 tons of blue drusy quartz with chrysocolla. He has also collected (though less successfully) at the Blue ball mine in Globe for azurite nodules, the Hull mine near Yuma for wulfenite and cerussite, the Hamburg mine for vanadinite, the Morenci mine for azurite, the Cohen mine for scheelite, the Melissa mine for wulfenite, the Rowley mine for wulfenite, the J. C. Holmes mine for vanadinite, the Hardshell mine for pyromorphite, the Helvetia area for aurichalcite and malachite, and many many others. The extensive list of important Arizona localities where Graham has collected is a testament to his enthusiasm as a field collector.
He opened the Sweet Home mine for Bryan Lees in 1991 and then left, but returned again in 1998 to mine rhodochrosite specimens until the mine closed in 2004. Working for Collector's Edge, he also mined benitoite specimens in California for three years, then took on the Twin Creeks Orpiment project in Nevada in 2000. He collected at the 29 mine in Missouri, bringing out 20,000 pounds of calcite crystals. He dug for topaz at the Maynard claims in the Thomas Mountains of Utah; barite in the Book Cliffs of Colorado; and collected calcite, fluorite, and associated minerals at the Elmwood mine in Tennessee. At the Nevada lode in La Salle, Utah, Graham and Bob Lane collected 125,000 azurite specimens. It is safe to say he has collected over half a million mineral specimens in his life so far.
Graham's collecting exploits also include numerous foreign localities. He has collected crocoite at the Red Lead mine in Tasmania, dioptase at Altyn Tyube in Kazakhstan, fluorite at the Xianghualing mine in China, and red grossular and vesuvianite at Sierra de las Cruces in Mexico. At the San Francisco mine in Mexico he mined over 2000 flats of wulfenite.
Graham's career in the mineral business has also included numerous specimen-buying trips to fang-flung corners of the world for Collector's Edge. He has been to China over 100 times, and has also purchased specimens in Colombia, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Mexico, Thailand, Bulgaria, Zambia and Namibia.
Graham's entrepreneurial spirit continues to drive new and exciting ventures; he established a successful mineral show case company, “Its West Display”, about 6 years ago. And he is promoting a new show at a new venue in Tucson, the “Mineral City Show,” beginning in 2019.
In 2019 Graham's many years of digging minerals was officially recognized when he was awarded the American Mineral Heritage Award, for field-collecting achievements contributing to the Heritage of American mineral specimens.
He can be contacted at Graham_s2002@yahoo.com
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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