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Want Vintage Henry Dunay Jewelry? Learn about history, jewelry marks, materials used, collectible pieces, and where to buy.
Beauty and perfection have always been the passion of Henry Dunay. He searches through priceless stones looking for those that “speak” to him. It doesn’t matter if the gems are flawless; if they do not inspire him, he passes right on by. Once he finds the stone, he designs a piece worthy of it.
Brief History of Henry Dunay Jewelry
Henry Loniewski was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1935 to Polish immigrants. When he was 14 years old, he went to work for a Manhattan jeweler running errands and worked his way up to apprentice. He learned goldsmithing and diamond setting and along the way noticed that jewelers designed pieces that looked like everyone else’s and used the same techniques. He vowed that he would not do that when he opened his own jewelry house. He was determined early on that jewelry would be his life’s work. And in preparation for that, he changed his surname to Dunay, his mother’s maiden name—easy to pronounce, spell and remember.
When he was 21, he went out on his own. Prestigious jewelers, e.g., Harry Winston, hired him to design for them, while he continued to work on his own pieces, gaining a reputation for his unique designs and innovative techniques, the high quality of his materials, and his meticulous craftsmanship.
In 1967, Henry won the his first De Beers Diamonds International Award for a carved gold, sapphire and diamond ring. The international exposure gained him many commissions, and he then achieved his long-held dream, the Henry Dunay Jewelry House. He continued producing custom pieces while he launched collections, such as Faceted (gold pieces with many surfaces), Cynnabar (a homage to Eastern art) and and Color-Me-Henry (with colorful semi-precious gems). Of all his creations, he is most noted for his Sabi finish inspired by the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which emphasizes simple elegance. Dunay’s Sabi motif consisted of finely hand-etched lines in brushed gold that required remarkable precision and skill to create.
His gift is in using precious gems and pave set diamonds in harmonious arrangements, while he balances straight and curved lines, volume and delicacy, infusing a piece with a gentle rhythm.
In 1993, Henry created the Lachrymosa Mask for AmFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, in homage to those that suffer with the disease. Elizabeth Taylor, founder and chair of the organization, wore it to promote a fundraising gala.
In 2003, he created a Dove of Peace as a plea for global peace. The pins were worn by many of the Oscar winners, nominees and attendees at the 75th Annual Academy Awards.
Watch Henry Dunay Make Jewelry:
Henry filed for bankruptcy in June 2009 with his $50 million inventory sold at auction. He never explained the reason for the bankruptcy. He later established a new business, H.D.D. Inc., to refocus his designs on unique, handcrafted heirlooms, which he continues today in New York City’s Diamond District. He puts in a full workday, beginning at 6 a.m., and spends his spare time devoted to philanthropy and social projects.
- “Dunay” with an oval plaque. Usually with the metal content and an inventory number.
- “Henry Dunay”
- "HENRY DUNAY"
- “Dunay” in fancy lettering within an oval cartouche.
- “Dunay” in the distinctive font with hearts that signifies the love for his work.
- An openwork heart pattern on the underside of the piece.
- Rhodolite (garnet)
- Boulder opal
- Baroque pearl
- South Sea pearl
- Black jade
- Lapis lazuli
- Quartz crystal
- Rose quartz
- White agate
Favorite Collectibles: Vintage Henry Dunay Jewelry
1990s. This brooch was part of Henry’s safari-themed collection. The rhinoceros was fashioned in silver with horns of 18k gold.
20th century. These cuff links feature square faces with a checked pattern accented by a brushed gold finish and a folding back. Measure .5 inch square.
20th century. Ring fashioned from black jade with two gold inlaid sections and 52 round brilliant diamonds inspired by Asian aesthetics.
1950s. A pear-shaped faceted aquamarine set into a geometric 18kt gold setting accented with small round diamonds.
1980s. Gold dome ring studded with .30-carat round-cut diamonds.
Tips for Buying Vintage Henry Dunay Jewelry
Consider where you are buying it.
An estate sale, antique shop or flea market are usually good bets to find authentic Henry Dunay jewelry. The two extremes of a big-box retailer and yard sale are doubtful.
Consider the craftsmanship.
Examine the item well. Use a magnifying glass or loupe to determine the quality of materials and workmanship. Especially check the details on the underside. Henry’s pieces are meticulous all over. Look for a stamp on gold and silver.
Try to get authentication.
Any paperwork on the piece is helpful. So is original packaging or a sales slip.
Take advantage of the resources on the Internet.
Visit sites that offer Henry Dunay jewelry and compare what you are considering buying with what is available, as far as authenticity and price.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Maybe it’s an online vendor who you have come to know and trust. Or a local jeweler. Ask someone for an opinion who has nothing invested in whether or not you buy the piece.
Any serious collector would appreciate Henry Dunay: A Precious Life. It’s beautiful enough to be a coffee table book, but also insightful and instructional enough to describe Henry’s techniques, influences and his particular relationship with precious jewels.