Henry Dunay started in the jewelry business more than 50 years ago as a mere kid — sweeping floors and doing odd jobs, for $25 a week for Jersey City retail jeweler Rudolph Cacioli.
It was a fortuitous fluke that he landed with Cacioli, a bench-trained jeweler who taught him how to control and coax metal, to metamorphose dreams into dreamy jewelry; he also became a crack diamond-setter, especially fancy-cuts. To this day Dunay still works at a jeweler’s bench where it’s not unusual to see him sawing and filing alongside the two dozen jewelers who work for him. He starts his day at 6 a.m. and finishes a solid twelve hours or more later, and still finds time for daily yoga and meditation.
Inspiration comes from everything, Dunay notes, “I just never wanted to make plain circles and triangles. I am always designing, always looking at my surroundings. When I was in China I saw amazing scrolls with elaborate artwork — scenes with mountains, sun, clouds, a stream with a bridge, a waterfall with a little house in the corner. These scenes were my motivation to create my ‘Cynnabar’ collection, which is textured and multi-dimensional.” His jewelry exudes harmony and balance between the organic and the linear.
In 1967, he won his first industry-wide validation, when he garnered the De Beers Diamonds International Award. He has since been the recipient of well over fifty awards in his career, including Best Jewelry Designer in the World in both 2000 and 2001 by the prestigious Robb Report.
From the Beladora Archives: “Facets” Earrings
These first awards were especially significant as they gave him the impetus and courage to move forward to create his own collection. Anyone who is familiar with the work of Henry Dunay knows that texture plays a very important role in his œuvre. First came the satiny matte-finished “Faceted” collection, then “Sabi”. Both have appealing and subtle surface texture. The faceted pieces have a hammered look, but they’re actually made with a unique tool he created himself; the hand-engraved “Sabi” line has a rich, satiny-smooth finish, achieved via another Dunay invention, by incising cuts into the metal. Two other popular collections that came later are “Sabi with Diamonds” and “Platinum and Gold.”
From the Beladora Archives: Henry Dunay Diamond Necklace
In his earliest designing years, he was enamored of coral and worked with it a great deal, along with diamonds and pearls. “Recently, it’s moonstones — from all over the world, in all colors—and I love cabochons. Faceted stones are wonderful, and they have their own time and place, but cabs are exquisite, and actually more casual.”
Henry Dunay ‘Sabi’ Earrings
“I’m very taken with jade, any jade, as it’s all so beautiful. I love the colors. I might find a piece that is 100 years old and I might put it in a 21st century setting, but with a twist on it, so that it is something unique. I always begin with a stone.
Dunay produces one major collection a year, which he introduces at the Basel World Watch & Jewelry Fair. Of the nearly 2,000 designs that he estimates he sketches a year, he says that maybe 350 are produced.