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Henry Dunay


Henry Dunay (1935 – ) Credited by experts as one of the trailblazers in the designer jewelry business, Henry Dunay is an American goldsmith and jewelry designer best known for his fine scratched surface technique, called Sabi.

Dunay was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1935. He was the second of three sons in the Polish-American Loniewski family. Henry began work in the jewelry industry at age 14 working as a messenger for the New York City jeweler Rudolph Cacioli. Dunay learned the art of creating jewelry with Cacioli and his associates.

Henry first worked as an errand boy, then progressively rose to become a master model maker and setter at a remarkably young age. Cacioli was impressed with the Dunay’s fine work and the refinement of his proportions and curves.

At age 18, Henry decided that using the name Loniewski would not help selling and marketing his creations so he changed his name to Dunay using his mother’s short, French-sounding maiden name.

After apprenticing for 7 years, Dunay had honed his skills by working with masters in all fields of jewelry making. He opened his own studio at age 21 and soon developed techniques for hand-engraved texturing his gold pieces. This development formed the signature style of the Henry Dunay brand that became renowned for its unique designs and unparalleled craftsmanship in 18K gold and platinum jewelry over the next few decades.

Henry Dunay’s notable success came after the introduction of the Sabi finish. It is inspired by the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic that reveres asymmetry, simplicity, and respects the integrity of natural processes and objects.

Described initially as “simple elegance,” Sabi consisted of finely hand-etched lines that required Henry to employ remarkable precision and skill to create its cultured look. Coinciding with the brand’s rising popularity in Japan and the growing influence of Far Eastern cultures on designs, Sabi solidified Dunay’s position as a leading jewelry designer, artist and trendsetter in the industry.

The quintessential Henry Dunay piece is bold, yet elegant. Worn by heads of state, politicians, and luminaries from around the world, Henry Dunay’s jewelry is immediately recognizable for its fine quality pieces.

Only the most skilled craftsmen have ever been allowed to create Henry Dunay jewelry and only the finest gemstones and pearls are used. Similar principles apply to the design process of Henry Dunay pieces. Countless iterations are created for each one and it is only after the model has achieved perfect proportions, curves, and accents does work begin crafting a piece.

This time consuming process has led to the creation of truly exceptional jewelry and garnered the brand with countless awards and honors around the world. Dunay has won at least 53 international awards for his designs.

Dunay is legendary for his craftsmanship and selection of the most beautiful stones. His original designs feature carefully crafted pave-settings that have led to modern gold pieces with a variety of finishes. The integrity and unique aesthetic of a Henry Dunay piece has remained consistent throughout his fifty years in business.

In the years following the establishment of his business, Dunay relocated closer to the fashion center of Fifth Avenue in New York City. For Dunay, it was almost always a struggle to keep the business running while maintaining his artistry as a designer.

Each piece was one of a kind, painstakingly hand crafted, and took enormous time and attention. Henry’s big break came in 1967 when he won the first of three De Beers Diamonds International Awards for a deeply carved gold, sapphire, and diamond ring. The international recognition he gained from this exposure led to many commissions including ones for a gold chastity belt and a golden goblet.

After these awards, Dunay sought to launch a collection with a unifying theme and signature design. Dunay’s Faceted collection consisted of gold pieces with many surfaces produced by cutting deeply into the metal. The Sabi line features the gold brushed finish and the Cynnabar collection is a tribute to Eastern Art. Dunay also released a collection featuring semi-precious gemstones of various colors called Color-Me-Henry.

In 1982 Dunay was inducted into the Diamonds International Academy, the only American so honored to date. In 1989 Dunay became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

In 1988, Dunay and his colleague, José Hess were instrumental in the establishment of the American Jewelry Design Council (AJDC.) The goal of the AJDC is to help introduce new American jewelry designers to the world and promote the idea that jewelry design is art in addition to craft. The organization has been successful helping American jewelry designers get their name and jewelry into the market.

The American Jewelry Design Council was founded by eight well known American jewelry designers. The group includes many of the most prominent American jewelry designers who offer their work nationally.

The Council holds a major contest each year to introduce new talent in fine jewelry making. The contest winner receives a free booth at the New Designer Gallery in the July JA Show in New York, one of the best ways for an up and coming American jewelry designer to get his or her name and jewelry noticed. The AJDC allows any American jewelry designer to participate in the contest who has never exhibited at the New York show.

The stability of Dunay’s business was severely affected by the 2008 financial crisis and Henry Dunay Designs and its inventory – valued at $50 million – was sold at auction in December 2009. Dunay later formed a new company, H.D.D. Inc. that focuses on creating custom pieces.

In October 2011, CREBI.com reported that a federal judge ruled that Henry Dunay of New York could no longer use his own name on his website, Facebook or Twitter accounts. In 2010, Sandawana Holdings Inc. bought Dunay’s intellectual property including the name of Henry Dunay Designs, its website templates, plus other templates and tools.

In early 2011, Sandawana re-launched the brand Henry Dunay using the HenryDunay.com website. At the same time, Sandawana returned the name HDD Inc. to Dunay. In 2011, an agreement was signed between the two companies where the actual Dunay (individual) was barred from advertising, marketing or selling jewelry that includes the words ‘Dunay’ or ‘Henry Dunay.’

The irony, of course, is that one of the “trailblazers” in designer jewelry could no longer use the name that had proved instrumental in paving the way for future eponymous jewelry designers.

At the time of the ruling Dunay said he planned to continue designing jewelry under the name, HDDInc.com. “I’m not giving up on designing beautiful jewelry, he said. “Only now [it] will be more difficult than it was before.”

The “new” company counts Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Elizabeth Taylor, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, and Oprah Winfrey as among its patrons. It also recognizes that Henry Dunay also designed a series of peace pins for the Academy Awards in 2003 and 2004.

Another example of Dunay’s legacy came in September 2017 when a vintage Henry Dunay signed platinum and 18K yellow gold Swoosh brooch in the artist’s signature Sabi scratched texture sold for $996. The elegant curved brooch is designed to be worn horizontally with the 18K yellow gold edge framing the inner platinum curve.

An American icon, Henry Dunay represents the very best in style and substance. This is a tradition that continues today. Dunay contends that with all of his great, one of a kind designs, first he finds the perfect stone, and then he builds around it.

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