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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Ashley Breen
Physical Geology
Fall 2011

Graemite (from Bisbee)

     In July of 1959, seventeen year old Richard Graeme III was listening to underground miners talk at Esker Mayberry’s Barbershop in Bisbee, Arizona. While at the barbershop, he learned about the 202 stope on the 1200 level of the Cole Mine. This stope was producing specimens of the rare minerals connellite and chalcophyllite.


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Richard Graeme III on the 5th level of the Southwest Mine around 1959.

Photo Credit: Richard Graeme III


     During the summer shutdown Graeme climbed down 1,200 feet of ladders and worked through a maze of tunnels until he reached the stope. To his disappointment, there were no specimens of interest to him in the stope. As he walked back to the shaft he discovered four mine cars loaded with ore sitting in a side tunnel. In the first mine car Graeme noticed a muddy rock with a hint of malachite; he picked it up and put it in his backpack. He also found five other rocks and headed back to the Cole shaft.


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The Cole Shaft in South Bisbee, Arizona.

Photo Credit: Richard Graeme IV


     The day after he returned from his journey underground, Graeme washed the rocks he collected. The only one that sparked the collector’s interest was the muddy rock. After he cleaned it, a 5.7 cm x 4.5 cm mass of malachite coated with 2 mm cuprite crystals was revealed.  Down in the crevice of the specimen were two electric blue crystals that were up to 5 mm in length. On one side of the rock was a 25 mm bluish-green crystal next to a broken crystal of the same material. Graeme showed the rock to other collectors, they all agreed that the blue crystals were connellite, and the bluish-green area was chalcophyllite.


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The specimen recovered from the Cole Mine.

Photo Credit: Ashley Breen and Richard Graeme IV


     Over the years Graeme had enrolled at Cochise College and later transferred to the University of Arizona. With the education he received along with increased experience with minerals, the collector started to suspect that the identification of the minerals were wrong. In 1974 he was the resident geologist at the Copper Queen Branch of Phelps Dodge. Graeme was working on a project with mineralogist Dr. Phil Matter when he showed him the specimen, which he was unable to identify. The specimen was then taken to his colleague Dr. Sid Williams, who performed powdered x-rays that showed the blue crystals were teineite; an extremely rare mineral containing tellurium. The other crystals were of an unknown mineral.   


     Six weeks after Dr. Williams first examined the specimen, he received samples containing the same unidentified blue to bluish-green mineral from another geologist. They were collected in the Dome Rock Mountains in La Paz County, Arizona. They finally recognized that this was a new species of minerals.


Basic Physical Properties of the Unknown Mineral:





Light Blue-Green

Crystal Shape



     It was determined that the composition was CuTeO3 · H2O. This is interesting because teineite has a composition of CuTeO3 · 2H2O and it is felt that the teineite lost water and had pseudomorphed into this new unidentified mineral. In 1974 this mineral was approved as a new species by the International Mineral Association.


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Blue crystals of teineite.

Photo Credit: Richard Graeme IV


     It was not an easy task naming the mineral. The decision had to be made whether to name it after its chemical or physical properties, after the mine it was discovered in or after a person. Dr. Williams and Dr. Matter came to the decision to recommend naming the mineral after the original discoverer Richard Graeme III. All official mineral names are approved by the International Commission on Mineral Nomenclature. Soon after the new species was called graemite, in honor of its discoverer.


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A single graemite crystal that is 25 mm.

Photo Credit: Richard Graeme IV


     Since 1974 two other graemite specimens from Bisbee, Arizona have been discovered. The first of the two was discovered in the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, it was a single crystal about 2 cm long from the Shattuck Mine by the late Monica Graeme. In 2010, The University of Arizona identified an unusual specimen of graemite from the Czar Mine. On this sample, graemite is present as a number of 2 mm crystals on a teineite crystal nested in cuprite. Graemite has also been discovered in other parts of the world including, Salm-Château, Vielsalm, Stavelot Massif, Belgium, the Bambollita Mine in Moctezuma, Mexico, and finally the Trixie Mine in Tintic, Utah.


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The “type” graemite specimen. 

Photo Credit: Ashley Breen and Richard Graeme IV



Graeme, Richard W. IV. Personal Interview. 11/20/11.

Graeme, Richard W. III. E-mail Interview. 11/22/11.

Graeme, Richard W. III. The Minerals of Bisbee, Arizona. Unpublished Manuscript: , 2006.

Williams S.A. and  Phillip Matter III "Graemite a New Bisbee Mineral." Mineralogical Record January-February 1975: p.32-34. Jolyon Ralph. . . 11/28/11