Jeweler Henry Dunay is convinced that his ancestors were jewelers for an Egyptian pharaoh. While the designer has no proof of this lineage, his passion for gems and jewelry runs so deep, he is sure it is part of his genetic constitution.
Dunay lately has been fascinated with moonstones in particular, as evidenced by his recently completed white cat’s-eye moonstone suite that took more than two years to assemble. In his characteristically meticulous style, Dunay spent months scrutinizing nearly 600 carats of white moonstones that he had acquired in India. He viewed them in natural light and under incandescent rays to precisely match 24 of the stones for the necklace. Next, each stone was recut, and its cat’s-eye—which is created by light reflecting off a natural needlelike rutile within the stone—was realigned to create the final 388-carat piece.
“Moonstones have a mystical feeling that is simply captivating,” says Dunay. “Some clients don’t believe that the color and cat’s-eye are natural, because they often appear supernatural.” Indeed, moonstones, which are part of the feldspar family of minerals, have mesmerized for centuries. The Romans adorned themselves with moonstones as early as A.D. 100, and they were popular in the Far East even before that. The stones were used widely in jewelry throughout the Art Nouveau period in the early 20th century, appearing in delicate designs by Tiffany and Cartier. But over the ensuing decades, the popularity of opaque, translucent moonstones waned as tastes shifted to the sparkling brilliance of diamonds and other faceted precious gemstones.
Two years ago, Dunay became one of the first contemporary designers to bring moonstones back to the forefront with his popular Color Me Henry collection of voluminous rings. Since then, several designers have followed his lead by incorporating moonstones into their collections. Meanwhile, Dunay has assembled a full array of pieces featuring “blue sheen” moonstones from Sri Lanka and peach-, chocolate-, kiwi-, and olive-colored moonstones from Southern India. “Moonstones are fun gems because you can wear them in large sizes, yet the stone is subtle and easy to wear,” he says. “They don’t dominate or overpower a woman.”
Henry Dunay at Neiman Marcus Precious Jewels Salon