Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Donna Hourani on Learning to Dance and Let Talent Lead


The tango is more than a dance to the partners who perform it—this playful style of movement evokes passion, takes drama to its highest level, and creates an intimate space between the partners that allows for both collaboration and improvisation.

This dance holds special meaning to jewelry designer Donna Hourani, who moved to Argentina in her early 20s to study tango after the unexpected death of her father. It was a time marked by grief, Hourani says, yet also a path that celebrated her love for dance, her romantic nature, and her creative temperament.

Argentina is a long way from the home in Lebanon where Hourani grew up with an entrepreneurial father and artistic mother. Hourani’s sense of adventure and willingness to try new things comes in part from her father, who she describes as a self-made businessman who loved his family and dreamed one of his daughters might become a jewelry designer.

Donna Hourani x Gemfields
The Donna Hourani x Gemfields collaboration combines the power and beauty of emeralds with Hourani’s vision of them as a symbol of love and connection with nature.

“My dad moved to Dubai [because of a civil war in Lebanon at the time] and built a business from scratch. Dubai was mostly a desert then, but his business grew quickly. He came at the perfect time as the country was being built,” Hourani says. “He loved design, and he worked mostly in construction and interiors.”

In college, Hourani says she studied interior architecture as well and went to work with her father after graduation. His sudden death in 2004 shocked the family, and Hourani says she found it hard to go back to the office without him there. She threw herself into dance, a pastime that took on a new importance. She opened a dance school soon after.

“It was therapy for me. I found my calling,” Hourani says.

That desire to be the best resulted in her solo trip to Argentina, where she studied with the best tango teachers. “It was an amazing experience on every level,” although it was more than a little rebellious to travel alone at that time, she says.

Donna Hourani Earrings
The To Beauty earrings designed by Donna Hourani with Gemfields in the Bridge collection combine emeralds, orange sapphire, amethyst, and lab-grown diamonds ($3,800).

Fast-forward to Hourani meeting her husband and starting a family. After her second of three sons was born, she felt restless and needed something to focus on as a new profession. Her husband supported her, Hourani says, and a coffee date with a jewelry-loving cousin proved fateful.

The two cousins went to jewelry markets together, finding as many scams as treasures. But the exploration of gems and jewelry gave Hourani the push she needed. If her father predicted one of his daughters might become a jewelry designer, Hourani says she knew it was meant to be. Hourani started sketching, talking to other designers, and finding she had a talent for this work.

Hourani took gem courses, signed up for every workshop, and gained enough experience that in 2016 she created her own jewelry brand. Her business blossomed during the pandemic, and she found herself bringing together her love of design with custom work.

Donna Hourani necklace
The Donna Hourani x Gemfields To Power necklace is a symphony of bead emeralds, sapphires in yellow, orange, blue, green, and pink as well as lab-grown diamonds ($12,200).

“Everything is written for you. You just have to stop worrying and let everyone be who and what they are,” Hourani says. “Everyone has a purpose—but finding it is both luck and being open.… As a jewelry designer, I’m like people’s therapist. They open up to you because you have to tell their story. It’s healing for them.”

It might be said it’s a bit healing for Hourani as well. That is why she loves collaborations, including her work with Gemfields. The Donna Hourani x Gemfields Bridge collection is a prime example of how partners equally fascinated with emeralds can come together for something so meaningful and dramatic.

The Bridge collection uses fine Zambian emeralds from Gemfields, a partner Hourani says she is proud to work with as a world-leading miner of responsibly sourced colored gemstones. Gemfields also is the majority owner of the Kagem mine in Zambia, and Hourani herself is passionate about responsible sourcing.

This work is something she is proud of and fits her design aesthetic, which is about wearable, everyday statement pieces.

“It’s about beauty and functionality,” Hourani says.

Top: Donna Hourani is a dancer, artist, and jewelry designer whose work with partners such as Gemfields has created some works of art that highlight wearability as well as responsible sourcing, she says (photos courtesy of Gemfields). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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