Yesterday, I learned that one of the kindest, most sincere and creative jewelry designers of the 20th century, Henry Dunay, passed away at the age of 89. Throughout a forty-year career as a jewelry designer, Henry Dunay (born Henry Loniewski in 1935) was one of the most prolific and creative jewelry designers – regularly leading the list of who’s who in jewelry. From the 1970’s onward until the mid 2000’s, when financial difficulties prompted him to sell his brand, he received more than 50 accolades and awards for his creativity.
For me, having met Henry in the mid-1980’s, I was awe-struck by his innate ability to turn precious stones and metal into wearable works of art. I was always impressed by his work – carved gemstones that formed incomparably beautiful brooches and objects of art. He was ahead of the times and was the inspiration for many a designer to come after him.
I was also, though, regularly impressed by him as a person. Henry was always kind and genuine. He took his time talking with everyone – press, clients, and just people. He didn’t put on airs about who he was or where he had come from. Born in Jersey City, NJ, he trained hard to pursue his art and he turned heads everywhere he went thanks to the creations he conjured and the humility in his presentation thereof.
Among his many accomplishments: Sabi. Inspired by the Japanese culture, Dunay created a simply elegant gold collection with finely etched lines carved into the gold to form alluring patterns of undulating ribbon. Called Sabi, these pieces were perhaps his signature – and became known globally. He also created a special ring as part of the Cynnabar collection – designed for Hillary Clinton to wear to the 1993 inaugural balls.
Unfortunately, during the financial crises in the late 2000’s, Henry Dunay Designs and its $50 million inventory was sold at auction. Later, he created a new company, H.D.D. Inc., where he continued to create custom pieces for his large following.
In 1999, when I was the watch and jewelry editor at Robb Report, I named him the best of the best in jewelry design. “Dunay’s impeccable taste has led him to create stunning one-of-a-kind masterpieces – often using some the world’s rarest gemstones.” Indeed, he would travel the world hand-picking the best stones that he could transform into a works of art – often by hand-carving cities or faces or animals into them.
Henry was a pioneer, one who blazed a brilliant career at a time when most jewelers were the big brand companies like Cartier, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels. He worked hard to win the spot as one of the world’s preeminent jewelry designers. Those who were fortunate enough to know him, know exactly what I am talking about when I say I will miss his smile, his kind words and his passion for jewelry and life. Rest in Peace, Henry.