Born the son of a railroad conductor in New Jersey in 1885, the famed jeweler Raymond Yard began his career aged 13 when William Marcus Elder, the owner of the exclusive jeweler’s Marcus & Co., offered him the job of errand boy at his Manhattan boutique. Over the course of 20 years’ service Yard rose to become the firm’s most sought-after salesman, renowned for his honesty and knowledge.
Eventually John D. Rockefeller Jr. — one of the world’s wealthiest men at the time — advised Yard to go it alone, and in 1922 he opened his first store on Fifth Avenue. He served more than 1,000 customers in his first year, and four years later moved to larger premises on the same street.
‘Through Rockefeller’s connections, Yard was introduced to some of the wealthiest people in America. The Vanderbilts, the DuPonts and the Woolworths all admired his jewels,’ explains Christie’s Jewelry specialist Jacqueline DiSante.
Over the decades Yard’s reputation continued to rise as he secured commissions from Hollywood stars such as Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks. He retired in 1958, passing control of the company to Glen McQuaker, Donald Bartow and Robert Gibson.
Yard gained a reputation for using the most exquisite metals and superlative stones. ‘In fact,’ says DiSante, ‘his clients trusted his perfectionism so much that they were willing to wait for him to find the perfect gems to complete their jewels.’
Yard’s earliest work took Art Deco designs to new heights. ‘By carefully selecting geometric-cut colored stones in combination with step and brilliant-cut diamonds, he could create bold and unique arrangements that spoke to the tastemakers of the 1920s and ’30s,’ DiSante continues. Yard was also known for breathing life into old gems by repurposing them from old settings into new ones.
In 1989 Gibson passed the firm on to his son, who still runs the business from Connecticut today. Raymond Yard passed away at his home in Larchmont, New York in 1996.