If you’re a jewelry lover, a crystal enthusiast or just someone who likes a bit of sparkly, you might know all about the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. Each winter, more than 65,000 guests flock to Tuscon to buy, sell, trade and enjoy the sights as jewelers and mineral purveyors turn nearly 50 locations across the city into a world of wonder—but did you know there’s a music festival and arts festival that’s grown up around it?
Since 2005, the Gem & Jam Festival has brought world-class electronic music talent and top-tier jam bands to the Tucson area, creating a new dimension of entertainment around the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. Beyond the beats, festival organizers also welcome a host of talented jewelers, craftsmen, artists and creators of all kinds to showcase their wares and build marvelous stages and interactive activations for festival goers who wish to get in the seasonal spirit.
This year’s Gem & Jam Festival is well underway, preparing to wow music lovers and fans of fine artisanal offerings alike with a three-day celebration running Friday to Sunday, Feb. 4 to 6.
"We are all getting super excited to bring the Gem & Jam community back together after taking a year off last year due to Covid,” says festival founder Toby White. “The event always brings so much joy to so many people from all over the country, and we have been working away to bring the best installment of the festival to date.”
Coming to the Pima County Fairgrounds, this year's lineup boasts headline performances from STS9, Liquid Stranger, Shpongle (Simon Posford Live Set), Claude VonStroke, Lotus and more, as well as a host of craft vendors, workshops, live painters and even a family circus.
"We are so blessed to bring back so many of our favorite vendors from past years as well as some fresh new options in our expanded marketplace, which includes jewelry, gems and minerals, clothing, art and more,” White says. “We put a lot of intention into curating a unique and quality marketplace that will have something for everyone."
In anticipation of this year’s Gem & Jam Festival, we’re taking a closer look at three of the on-site artisans who’ll be selling their wares and educating folks on the beautiful world of crystal and gemstone crafts.
Ring by Sean Smokovich
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A long-time friend of the Gem & Jam festival, Jason Burruss is just as handy behind the DJ decks as he is a craftsman studio. His work mixes fine metal-wrapping with sacred geometry to create powerful and spiritually-infused pieces. An innovator in the world of “cold-fusion” jewelry techniques, Burruss creates all his fine pendants and talismans without the use of external heat, which means there’s great care and personal attention devoted to each twisting strand of precious metal. Catch him at the festival showcasing his latest series of “future curb chains.” Also keep an eye out for his Purple Couch Jewelry Gallery, which will showcase even more collections from a crew of uniquely-talented jewelry designers.
“Gem and Jam has impacted my life significantly,” Burruss says. “To put it simply, I don’t believe Purple Couch would exist without the inspiration I received from going to Gem and Jam and the events that (organizer) Josh Pollack invited me to in my early years in the music scene. I appreciate and look forward to this festival every year.”
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Meticulous design, mesmerizing geometry and marvelous shine are what customers can expect from Sean Smokovich’s award-winning jewelry. A master of his craft, Smokovich was honored with the AGTA Spectrum Award for Platinum Innovation, and his ornate works are sure to astound at this year’s event. From show-stopping pendants to dazzling diamond rings, elegant earrings and more, Smokovich’s work has graced A-list stars Billie Eilish and Diplo, and it can become a part of your collection, too.
“It’s incredible and inspiring to see what this special event has become,” Smokovich says of Gem & Jam Festival. “It has evolved from a one night party at a little dude ranch out in the desert, to this consistently epic and community enriching immersive great times factory. Out of all of the festivals out there on the west coast, this one stands alone in its ability to blend workshops, crystals, art and music seamlessly… always new and exciting stuff every year.. that’s why I have never missed one!”
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Rare and precious gems are at the heart of Tyler Kahn’s designs. His company Isometric Minerals specializes in seeking out the most breathtaking crystals, gemstones and mineral treasures this Earth has ever created, and his keen eye for beauty and form brought him to the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase for years, even before Gem & Jam Festival was founded. His jewelry designs put those finds front and center, their beauty and multi-faceted faces accentuated by bands of gold, white gold, silver and other fine metals. Kahn is also the builder of the large crystal altars that grace the Gem & Jam stages.
“The founders of the festival are among some of my best friends, so it's personally like home for me,” Kahn says. “During Gem and Jam festivals, I have historically showcased my minerals with my gem company, Isometrica, as well as my handmade jewelry via my company, Tyler Kahn Designs. This year is going to be a very magical Gem and Jam with one of the bigger productions yet and I will be showing my jewelry with my friends at Dusty Rocks. Gem and Jam has always been the one festival where I get to fully partake in great times with both my communities from the music industry and the gem, mineral and jewelry spaces. In that sense, it’s one of my favorite events of the year and I am so excited to be there again.”
The 14th Annual Gem & Jam Festival comes to Tucson Friday to Sunday, Feb. 4 to 6. See the full lineup of music and activations, purchase tickets and learn more at gemandjamfestival.com.
Photography by: Courtesy of Gem & Jam Festival; Courtesy of Sean Smokovich