This month Savage Spirit! features the final works of the late Moab jewelry artist James Haas (1958-2012). Jim’s passion were the stones, which he cut & polished. He taught himself silversmithing and kept the settings clean & simple to show off Mother Nature’s art.
Jim grew up in the Denver area. As a young boy, he loved exploring nature. He would find cool rocks and share them with his friends. He attended Western State University in Gunnison, CO to study geology. Circumstances did not allow him to complete his degree, and he spent many years logging in the summer and working at Crested Butte ski resort in the winter. As he realized that he would not be able to continue that lifestyle indefinitely, he went to Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Santa Monica, CA where he graduated at the top of his class and became a Certified Gemologist. After a few years appraising jewelry, Jim realized the suit and tie life was not for him and began creating his own jewelry which he sold at art festivals. For the past 20 plus years, Jim pursued his passion; cutting and polishing the stones he loved, creating beautiful jewelry where the stone was the focus, traveling to art festivals where he could talk about the stones he loved and educate people.
Jim met his wife, Cathya Savage-Haas (owner of Savage Spirit!), at an art festival in 1998 and they settled in Moab, which Jim thought was the most beautiful place on earth. They opened a store, Cave Dreamers, selling their work & handcrafted items made by friends. But Jim missed the open road and the adventure, so they closed the store and returned to art festivals. He developed an international clientele that love the clean, classic lines and impeccable workmanship of his Stoneage Jewelry. Jim participated in many prestigious art shows and received awards for his jewelry at the Indian Wells Arts Festival & the St George Art Festival.
The first and most crucial step in the creation of Stoneage Jewelry was the selection of stones. Jim sorted through tons of rough gemstones to select only the highest quality and most beautiful stones. From there, he cut the rough chunks of stones into slices or slabs. Jim would carefully study each unique slab and cut it into smaller pieces to best showcase the distinctive beauty of each stone. Each piece was then hand shaped by coarse grinding on a flat lap machine. Through a process of successively fine grinds, Jim polished each stone to perfection.
Jim then handcrafted sterling silver settings for each stone. Since each stone was individually hand cut and polished, no two are the same. Therefore each stone required a custom made setting. These were then made into pendants, earrings, and rings. Jim produced a line of jewelry where his classic, sophisticated styles showcased the natural beauty of the stones.
Jim died on June 4th at age 53 after a brief illness. It appears that the major culprit was undiagnosed, untreated diabetes which lowered his immune system. After successfully surviving a severe bacterial infection, Jim developed pneumonia and sepsis. Despite valiant efforts by the ICU staff at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction, Jim’s immune system was unable to combat the infections and eventually everything shut down.
Jim’s guiding principle was to do what he loved and share that with others. He was fulfilled that he had found a way to make a living doing what he loved.
Stop by Savage Spirit!, 87 N Main to check out Jim’s Stoneage Jewelry. Please join us in a celebration of the beauty Jim created during Moab Art Walk, Saturday, October 13th 6pm - 9pm and be sure to mention you read it in Moab Happenings.