It seems an unlikely scenario that the son of a New Jersey railroad conductor would become one of the most esteemed jewelers of his time.
Unlikely, but true. It's the story of Raymond Carter Yard.
In the Beginning
A chance encounter involving Raymond Yard's Father and William Marcus set Him on the path to his future. His father, a train conductor, became friendly with William Marcus, the owner of renowned NYC jeweler Marcus and Company. The elder Yard, who was afflicted with tuberculosis, confided in Marcus that he was worried about his son's future. As a result, Marcus gave the boy his break in 1898, and 13-year-old Raymond was given a job opening doors and running errands for Marcus & Company Jewelers.
Working all day and studying the business at night, Yard rose through the ranks at Marcus & Company, learning jewelry production and eventually becoming one of the business' top salesmen. With his refined manner and creative spirit, he attracted a sophisticated clientele that included the wealthiest and most famous members of society.
Enter John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Foremost of Yard’s clients was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. In 1922, Rockefeller encouraged Yard to open his own store. Yard took his advice, choosing a prime spot at 522 Fifth Avenue. Yard benefited by Rockefeller’s referrals, which included some of society’s wealthiest families -- the Vanderbilts, Woolworths, and DuPonts -- as well as some of the most famous stars of the Hollywood set, such as Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks.
Setting Raymond Yard apart from his contemporaries was his understated style and his use of the highest quality color gemstones in geometric shapes, paired with step- and brilliant-cut diamonds – displayed in elegant platinum settings. His renowned Art Deco styles are as stunning and timeless now as they were in the 1920s and ‘30s.
The cocktail ring was a Yard specialty, as were the bracelets and earrings that embodied the quiet elegance that defined the Yard hallmark. His brooches were breathtaking – and, occasionally, whimsical, as evidenced by his series
of animal pins, featuring birds and fish. The Rabbit Waiter series, in particular, captivated Yard’s clientele and to this day, remain some of his most cherished pieces.
Thanks in part to his meticulous documentation and high-society provenance of many of the pieces, the dramatic jewelry designs by Raymond Yard are very highly valued.
Master of Restyling
Yard was an expert at envisioning how estate jewelry could transform into new styles. Arguably the most famous example of this is the Rockefeller Emerald.
An impressive emerald brooch belonging to John Rockefeller, Jr.’s wife, Abby, was bequeathed to their five children. The stones were removed, and the largest, an 18.4-carat emerald belonging to David Rockefeller, was set into a ring designed by Raymond Yard. Fashioned in platinum and tastefully accented with exquisite diamonds, the ring recently fetched $5.5 million at a Christie’s auction.
The Next Generation
It may have been his humble beginnings that shaped the generous and gentlemanly spirit that embodied Raymond Yard. He took as his protégé a young man who had caddied for him. Robert Gibson, who also lost his father at a young age, rose through the ranks of the company over 21 years. He became its leader upon Yard’s retirement in 1958. Gibson’s son, Bob, took over the reins in 1989.
Today, the company continues the traditions established by Raymond Yard nearly a century ago. Yard’s legacy lives on, with new styles inspired by the “Yard look,” while sustaining the standards of superior gemstones and peerless craftsmanship that Raymond Yard insisted upon from the start.