Henry Dunay was born Henry Loniewski in New Jersey in 1935, the second of three sons born to Polish parents. At 14 he went to work for Rudolph Cacioli, a New York jeweller on Canal Street, starting as an errand boy and then working his way through a jewellery apprenticeship learning the craft of goldsmithing and diamond setting. After seven years with Cacioli, during which time Henry had changed his surname and taken his mother’s maiden name Dunay, he left to start his own business. He founded his eponymous business in 1956, just after his 21st birthday, and to begin with took on work from other jewellers such as Harry Winston. Doing this enabled him to work on his own original designs and gradually build his reputation and business. To begin with it was a struggle as his pieces were all painstakingly hand crafted which was very time consuming but he believed strongly in quality craftsmanship and materials and so persevered with his methods and integrity.
In 1967 he won the De Beers Diamonds International Award (the first of four such awards) for a deeply carved gold, sapphire and diamond ring. This provided Dunay with the break he needed as the publicity generated by the award led to many new clients and commissions. As well as focusing on his individual designs he launched collections including Faceted, Cynnabar and the wonderfully named Colour-Me-Henry in which the focus was, unsurprisingly, coloured gems. Perhaps the most well-known one however is Sabi in which the metal of the jewels is meticulously hand engraved to give a soft, brushed, tactile finish. Alongside jewellery Dunay also designed personal accessories, objet and time pieces.
His designs are renowned for their quality of craftsmanship, use of beautiful gems, pavé set diamonds and for their sense of harmony. He balances straight and curved lines, volume with delicacy and infuses his work with a gentle rhythm that underlies his approach to design and creativity – “I express my love of life through my designs”. He has been recognised for his passion and skill more than fifty times during his decades long career with a vast array of both national and international awards attesting to his continued and universal appeal. He is also active in the jewellery community being a past president and founder of the American Jewelry Design Council, a member of The Gemological Institute, and a member of The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America). He supports various charitable causes including the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFar) for whom he designed the famous Lachrymosa Diamond Mask which was modelled by Elizabeth Taylor prior to its auction at Christie’s in 1992.
Dunay was badly affected by the financial crash of the late 2000s and in December 2009 his company Henry Dunay Designs and around $50 million of inventory was sold at auction. He later established a new business H.D.D. Inc which is based in the Rockefeller Centre in New York and from where Dunay continues to create individual, unique, handcrafted jewels.