1920s – 1930s
Top: Warsaw, Poland, circa 1920s. Kenneth, far left, and Joel, across the bench near the window, learn the craft of fine jewelry making.
Kenneth Suna begins to apprentice in a jewelry factory in Warsaw, Poland. His older brother, Joel, is already working in the shop.
Honing his craft as a bench jeweler, Kenneth learns to appreciate the beauty of fine platinum jewelry. He also develops a talent for evaluating and selecting gemstones.
Kenneth arrives in the United States through Ellis Island. His parents and one brother are already here. Having sold the family home and business in Poland, Kenneth arranged prior passage to the States for his younger siblings. Unable to find work in the jewelry industry, he takes a job working nights in a pocketbook factory and also manages to obtain his high school diploma.
Kenneth begins to work as an independent bench jeweler in New York City. Soon after, he establishes SUNA and specializes in channel-set wedding bands.
Kenneth meets Perle, his future wife, at her best friend’s wedding where he is an usher. He pursues her for 4 years.
After joining the US Army, Kenneth visits New York City on official business. He proposes to Perle on the subway as a crowd cheers him on. An interesting sidebar: Kenneth is transporting a prisoner to Leavenworth and he is handcuffed to Kenneth’s wrist during the proposal! In 1944, Perle travels by train to Florida to the army base where Kenneth is stationed and they marry.
Kenneth is in San Francisco about to set sail for the occupation of Japan when Aron, his first son, is born. Aron’s birth provides the necessary additional “points” required to keep Kenneth home. After the Red Cross confirms his birth by telegram, he walks off the ship and goes home to Brooklyn. Discharged from the army, Kenneth restarts the business with Joel, his older brother. The company is renamed Suna Bros. They set up shop on 7 West 45th Street and expand to more space on the same floor shortly after.
Suna Bros. launches full speed into manufacturing diamond jewelry and quickly becomes known for very fine quality.
Top: Perle and Kenneth on their wedding day. Bottom: Original announcement card
1950s – 1960s
Top: In July 1950, Perle and a 5-year old Aron bid a bon voyage to Kenneth at Idlewild Airport (now JFK) as he embarks on a buying trip overseas. Bottom: Scenes from Suna’s 7 W. 45th Street office, circa 1960s.
Kenneth begins to travel abroad purchasing diamonds. After the war, small diamond goods were extremely scarce and expensive. He purchases goods from Antwerp for $600 per carat — an astronomical amount for the time. By the time the goods arrive stateside via ship, the value drops to $200 per carat as diamond production in Europe resumes.
Joel and Kenneth amicably decide to dissolve their partnership. Kenneth buys him out, but Joel remains as the primary diamond sorter given his training as a setter and his expert eye. He works at Suna Bros. until 1993.
Suna Bros. is now dealing with most of the major Fifth Avenue jewelry stores, developing a burgeoning business of private label pieces. Kenneth is in his element: he establishes solid relationships and a strong reputation among industry colleagues.
Kenneth installs a pneumatic tube system in Suna’s headquarters to transport work between the non-adjacent office spaces. Later, in the 1970s, Suna Bros. acquires the entire floor and has windows on all four sides, a rare commodity in NYC.
On Labor Day weekend, the vault of Boston’s Shreve, Crump & Low is burglarized and totally cleaned out. Two days later, Kenneth is on a plane to Boston with replacement jewelry showing support and loyalty to a longstanding customer. After graduating law school, Aron Suna joins the Navy’s Judge Advocates General’s Corps (JAG).
Kenneth travels to Tanzania to visit the first diamond production factory employing a specially trained Tanzanian workforce. The trip proves to be most fortuitous. There, Kenneth connects with key international suppliers, forging additional long-lasting and important relationships in Europe.
After the Suna Bros. office manager gives short notice, Perle Suna begins what she thought would be a temporary tenure until the position is filled. Kenneth asks her to interview candidates. Perle decides that she could do the job best. Kenneth is thrilled. Perle stays for 38 years. Already having her masters in education, Perle becomes a certified gemologist through the American Gem Society, enabling Suna Bros. to become a member of the organization
Top Left: Kenneth examines the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton diamond, a magnificent 68-carat pear shape. Top Right: Joel and Kenneth, circa late 1960s. Bottom Left: A spirited, intellectual maverick, Perle Suna graduated from Brooklyn College. Bottom Right: Perle in 1969.
Aron takes the GIA diamond course via correspondence. Younger brother Jonathan spends his summer vacation from high school polishing diamonds in Belgium.
Aron joins Suna Bros. He lives in Antwerp, Belgium for 3 months to further his education in diamonds. Outside of Antwerp, Aron polishes diamonds in a factory. He also learns to sort full cuts for make, color and clarity.
In July, Aron embarks on his first buying trip with Kenneth to Israel and Antwerp. It was the first of 2-3 buying trips per year for Aron. In November, Kenneth passes away. The industry mourns his untimely death.
Top: Vintage model books from the archives, like this one, detail the specifications for every piece that Suna made. Bottom: Aron and Perle in the 1970s.
The iconic diamond starfish is born into Suna’s collection. A family of starfishes in various precious metals are among the bestsellers to this day.
Strong proponents of industry ethics and standards, Suna Bros. joins two more trade organizations: MJSA, Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers Association, and JVC, Jewelers Vigilance Committee.
After graduating from Boston University, Jonathan Suna completes both the GIA and AGS gemology programs,receiving his Graduate Gemologist and Certified Gemologist accreditations. He joins Suna Bros..
The iconic Suna Starfish
Above Left: Aron and Jonathan, Boston University 1979. Above Right: Jonathan, Perle and Aron, circa 1980s.
This decade is tantamount to Suna Bros’ drive for strategic positioning. Suna’s philosophy has always been to stay ahead of the curve of industry trends and marketplace tone, reinventing itself to remain vital and relevant. Several key decisions are implemented during the 1980s which prove to be very successful, not only building the core business but ushering the company into the next century.
The company Suna Kinstlinger is formed with Henry Kinstlinger, a former DeBeers site holder. Henry’s father, Josef, and Kenneth had been colleagues and business associates for many years. Suna-Kinstlinger cuts rough diamonds and sells on the market and to retailers. Aron is invited to join the 24 Karat Club of NYC.
Suna Kinstlinger is one of the first companies to have long term memo programs of ear studs and pendants to retailers. This proves to be an extremely successful program.
As a guest of DeBeers, Aron visits several mines and mining operations of CDM (Consolidated Diamond Mines) in Namibia.
Aron embarks on his first trip to Vincenza. There, he is very impressed with Italian gold collections. At this time, European manufacturers had not yet infiltrated the states and the American market was poised for something different and exciting. Suna Bros. decides to import 18 karat gold bracelets, necklaces and earrings. They also manufacture complementary 18 karat pieces in New York. The concept is an immediate success.
Suna Bros. decides to take control of their own destiny by purchasing a floor of one of the first commercial condo buildings in New York City. They move to larger office and manufacturing space on an entire floor on 46th Street.
Suna Bros. office and manufacturing space.
Bottom Right: An AGTA Spectrum Award-winning pin. Framed in onyx and 18 karat gold, it features a black opal, amethyst, tanzanite, yellow sapphires and chrome tourmaline and diamonds.
Maria Canale begins to design for Suna Bros. Maria’s presence is the advent of a much more fashion-forward approach. Several very successful collections are designed during this decade. With Maria on board, Suna Bros. wins over 15 national and international design awards, including those from World Gold Council, DeBeer’s Diamonds International, various other DeBeer’s competitions, Platinum Guild International, Modern Jeweler, Argyle International Colored Diamonds, MJSA and the American Gem Trade Association’s Spectrum Awards.
Aron & Jonathan purchase Shreve & Co. of San Francisco with the Schiffman family. Suna participates in the very first JCK show in Las Vegas, exhibiting among high-end manufacturers in the Galleria.
Suna exhibits in the first Couture Collection show. Aron joins the board of MJSA.
Aron joins the board of the JVC. In July, Suna purchases natural pink diamonds from the Argyle mine in Australia. The stones are incredible and very unlike any other previous diamond purchase. “We never spent so much money for full cuts and ended up with so few carats,” comments Aron. Suna Bros. manufactures a Maria Canale-designed diamond cuff in platinum featuring over 900 diamonds and wins the world’s largest and most prestigious jewelry design competition, the DeBeer’s Diamond International Awards in Paris. Maria is the only American out of 25 designers celebrated that year.
Top Right: DeBeer’s Diamond International Award-winning bangle
Top Left: Excavated terraces Right: Jonathan climbs down from a behemoth vehicle used to transport vast amounts of payload at the Argle mine. Bottom Left: Winner of the Tanzanite Celebration of Life design competition.
Aron and Jonathan visit the Argyle mine in the Northwest Territory of Australia. They spend two days touring the mine site and facilities in depth. Later, in Sydney, they have the opportunity to see several summer Olympic events, including Team USA men’s beach volleyball gold medal victory.
Aron is elected president of the 24 Karat Club of New York City.
Suna Bros. wins top honors in the Tanzanite Celebration of Life Design Award with an incredible necklace.
Aron is elected to the GIA Board of Governors.
2010 – Current
Aron travels to India with the GIA board of governors, visiting diamond cutting factories in Surat, precious stone factories in Jaipur and the diamond center in Mumbai.
Aron visits Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and China, visiting gem cutting factories and meeting with various international trade organizations. He also wins the JVC’s Stanley Schechter Award in recognition for his support of the organization’s integrity through legal compliance.
As a governor of GIA, Aron has the rare opportunity to tour both the offices DEBSWANA, the partnership between Botswana and DeBeers, and DTC, the DiamondTrading Company in Botswana. Once again, Suna Bros. reinvents itself and begins to expand their collection with one-of-a-kind gemstone jewelry. They join the AGTA, American Gem Trade Association.
Top Right: Aron and Jonathan. Bottom Right: Aron holds a a significant uncut diamond in Botswana. Top Right: Suna’s color palette expands to include exotic gems from all around the world.
A sampling of Suna couture creations; the incomparable Perle Suna.
2014 - 2015
Along with its quintessential collection, Suna expands its palette by creating couture pieces featuring exotic gems like padparadscha sapphires and paraiba tourmalines. A multi-colored spinel bracelet wins an AGTA Spectrum Award and Women’s Jewelry Association Gem Diva award.
Perle Suna passes away at 95. She was a force of nature: a progressive, intellectual, independent woman with a prodigious book-a-day reading habit and whose many passions included bridge, Tudor history and opera. Beloved by so many in the jewelry industry, Perle’s influence on Suna’s business was tangible and lasting.
And onward ...
Amidst ever-changing trends and evolving fads, Suna remains true to its roots as a classic mainstay in the jewelry industry, synonymous with quality and proud to be American-crafted.
Suna . . . elegance is always in style.