With an inspiring personal story and a successful professional career, jewelry designer Hassan Bounkit is perhaps one of the most original creators of our time. His exclusive Bounkit jewelry – handmade in his New York atelier with semi-precious stones from around the world – is worn by impressive celebrities, including Megan Markle, Duchess of Sussex; Oprah Winfrey; Salma Hayek, Sofía Vergara, Brooke Shields and other countless visionaries.
However, none of that has managed to overshadow the simplicity and humility of this pleasant and cordial man who exudes peace as he welcomes me into his bright Bounkit atelier in “NoMad,” one of the busiest neighborhoods in Manhattan, New York.
The sun pours through large windows in his living room, surrounded by walls “upholstered” by hundreds of boxes, holding countless multicolored stones. However, a gigantic center table is the heart of the atelier. There Bounkit sketches, paints, looks at gems with his magnifying glass, and sometimes serves mint tea brought from his native Morocco to his private clients or writers like me.
During our time together, I realized rather quickly that he does not like to talk about himself. Instead, he begins the conversation by showing me some of his favorite gems and jewels from his new collection, along with several pieces that have a special meaning to him. It was during this time he began to tell his story.
Hassan was born in Casablanca, Morocco, to a highly traditional close-knit family. His father, Mohamed Bounkit, imported electrical appliances from Europe, selling them throughout the region, and his mother, Zahra, is a homemaker. Together Hassan’s parents welcomed six children into the world, including his four brothers and sister.
After living in Casablanca until he was 20 years old, Hassan went on to study in Montreal, Canada. Once he completed his studies, he would travel to Florence, Italy, to study fashion, his greatest passion.
There he began to work with designer brands like Salvatore Ferragamo and Marella Ferrera. However, Hassan had a dream in his heart that he knew he needed to pursue. During his time in Montreal, his school organized a trip to New York in 1982, causing his life to change forever. He was so fascinated and seduced by the vibrant and challenging city of New York that he promised himself he would return and make it his home.
A few years later, in 1989, Hassan made his dream come true. In New York, he studied fashion at the prestigious FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). He worked as an assistant to famous designer Nicole Miller.
However, like many young people his age, Hassan decided to take a break from his work and pursue photography. It was during this time Persian jewelry designer Iradj Moini hired him to photograph his pieces. After photographing his work, Bounkit stayed as director of Moini’s studio and started designing pieces for him. It was then that Hassan began his jewelry design career.
By this time, Hassan was married to a young Moroccan woman named Sana, who also passionately loved gems. Now they are parents to two beautiful young children named Rayan and Jana; however, their love story is not your typical one by any means. They didn’t randomly meet and fall head over heels in love like most couples. Instead, their marriage was an “arranged” marriage that turned out better than their wildest dreams.
“My mother excitedly called me one day to tell me that she found me the perfect girlfriend,” Hassan said. “I went to Morocco a few months later to celebrate my birthday, and my family invited her to the party, which is where I met her,” he continued. “We talked for a long time. I asked her out, and two weeks later, we were already planning the wedding,” he recalled. In his country, he explained that this type of marriage usually works because traditional families do not allow their daughters to date anyone, before they get married. Instead, mothers, siblings, or close friends serve as “matchmakers” and look for the perfect partner for their loved ones. But, of course, he clarified that there is no wedding if the bride or groom does not give their consent.
Fast forward to 2006, Hassan founded his jewelry company with his wife Sana and put his last name, Bounkit, in the title. The couple began working from their living room and later worked from their Manhattan studio. When Rayan, their first child, was born, they moved to a bigger house outside New York. Sana is still Hassan’s right-hand man and handles all of the accounting and marketing for the company.
Today, Bounkit is one of the most original and successful brands on the market. In his discreet and quiet way, Hassan has gradually climbed up the ladder of well-deserved fame with his originality, creativity, and technique. His pieces are the “object of desire” for those who know how to expertly combine chic and exquisite style with the versatility and uniqueness of a spectacular piece of jewelry, making his brand one of a kind. Stay tuned for our upcoming article on Bounkit jewels! ■