Quizzes & Trivia
“There’s only one thing that’s worth more than turquoise to me, and that’s my family.” –Danny Otteson
Meet the Otteson family! They cover three generations with different experiences, different ideas, and different opinions, often working in brutal and dangerous conditions. But as they look out over the vast Nevada desert, with its unforgiving terrain and often extreme weather, like the prospectors who trekked across America’s West centuries before them, they have one goal: to find the motherlode. Unlike, the men who staked claims during The Gold Rush, the Ottesons dig for a different nugget: turquoise.
The family business started with Lynn Otteson, who staked his first claim in 1958. Today his descendants carry on his legacy, mining the same remote locations around Tonopah, Nevada. Their claims produce some of the most valuable turquoise in the world, some stones worth more than gold.
Donna – When Donna married Lynn’s son, Dean, she became part of a hard-working, tight-knit family and a rugged, demanding lifestyle. Dean, a miner and well-regarded racehorse jockey, passed away in October 2016, and Donna stepped up to assume his role. Those may have been some big shoes to fill, but now, as the matriarch of the Otteson mining empire, she is the heart and soul of this diligent, determined clan.
You’ll find Donna at the helm of a business selling jewelry made from stones the family mines, but don’t let the bling blind you. Donna knows the turquoise industry inside out. She’s one tough cookie, and not afraid to get her hands dirty at the mines.
Danny – Danny is Donna’s brother-in-law. As a second-generation miner, Danny learned the industry ropes from his late father, Lynn Otteson. He specializes in operating all the heavy equipment, the explosives, and finding new mines.
As a master prospector, he has literally walked thousands of miles in search of the precious stone, tracking the path of the turquoise. On a family mining website, Danny says, “The most important thing my dad ever taught me about mining is how to follow where the Turquoise goes through the faults and how to recognize Turquoise formations.”
Today, he keeps the tradition alive by teaching his sons, Lane and Tristan. In addition to mining, Danny has worked as a cowboy on cattle ranches, and in high school, competed in bull riding and other rodeo events.
Danny’s Sons – third generation miners
Lane – A perennial optimist, Lane is passionate about learning everything he can about turquoise mining, and he’s had one of the best teachers around—his dad.
Lane’s expertise lies in operating the excavators and following the trail of variscite, a relatively rare hydrated aluminum phosphate, similar in appearance to turquoise, but its color ranges from yellow-green to blue-green. He’s also skilled at cutting cabochons, silversmithing, working with horses, and drawing.
Tristan – Like his older brother, Lane, Tristan has been going to the mines with his dad since he could walk. Now working with his brother, he’s developed a unique approach to the family business, as he says, “Do what you’re asked and give it a twist!” A deep thinker, he is interested in the history of turquoise and the science behind its formation. Among his specialties are swinging a sledgehammer and scoping out the hard-to-find turquoise.
“The most important thing my dad has ever taught me about mining turquoise is to trust yourself to mine to the best of your ability and knowledge, and to never assume somebody has already dug up all of the turquoise or found it all,” Tristan says, on his family’s website.
The brothers have extensive experience processing the stones, and, now they devote most of their time operating their own claim.
Tommy – Tommy is Danny’s brother. The family moved to Nevada when he was around four-years-old, and it’s safe to say, he’s been around mining and actually working in the trade for most of his life, much of the time learning from his father, Lynn Otteson. Tommy wears many hats in the family business.
On the “Otteson Brothers Turquoise” website, he says, “I do about everything that’s needed in the business, from running heavy equipment, blasting, cutting Turquoise, selling to fixing whatever breaks – which happens more frequently than you’d imagine.”
Tommy is dedicated to passing his expertise on to future Otteson miners, including all ten of his children, and a few of his sons-in-law. His oldest sons, Tony and Trenton often turn to him for his knowledge and advice.
Tommy’s sons, third-generation miners
Tony – Tony takes an analytical, systematic approach to running the business. He’s mastered every phase of the turquoise trade—from prospector to miner to skilled artisan. He creates cherished Otteson family heirloom jewelry that is passed down from generation to generation.
Trenton – Trenton splits his time between his home in Las Vegas and the mines around the Tonopah area. He’s no stranger to hard, physical work, displaying exceptional strength and endurance. A master prospector, Trenton has a gift for finding turquoise. He approaches every day at work with guts, gusto and a “gung ho” attitude.
When you marry an Otteson, you marry a way of life…
Emily – Tony’s wife. Emily jumped into the turquoise mining lifestyle with unfettered passion. She’s driven to make the business a success, and works at a variety of jobs for the company—from internet sales to digging in the mines. Because of a life-changing experience in her past, she’s a stickler about safety in the family’s extremely dangerous occupation.
JaKell – Trenton’s wife. JaKell’s sense of style and background in fashion makes her the perfect person to advise the family on the latest jewelry trends and designs. She often helps Emily with marketing, internet and social media sales and promotion. Her in depth knowledge of current tastes helps the family produce products that sell.
Watch Turquoise Fever, Wednesday nights at 9PM ET starting August 14th.