Raymond Yard worked his way up from humble beginnings to become one of America’s premier jewellers. Upon the death of his father, a train conductor from New Jersey, in 1897, Raymond was thrust by chance into the jewellery business at the age of thirteen when he took a job as a door boy at Marcus & Co, a leading New York City jeweller. He quickly rose up the ranks to become general manager, and it was in this position that he became acquainted with John D. Rockefeller, who encouraged him to start his own business.
In 1922 Yard did just that, opening his first showroom at 527 Fifth Avenue. During these first years, now referred to the firm’s “classic period”, Yard established himself with the American elite, including barons of industry such as Henry DuPont and Henry Flagler, and celebrities, like Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks. It was also when Yard’s own distinctive style emerged. Primarily working in the Art Deco mode, Yard designs ranged from understatedly elegant to charmingly whimsical. His rabbit brooches created in the late 1920s and 1930s are today one of the most collectable pieces of fine vintage jewellery.
Regarding craftsmanship, Yard was a notorious perfectionist. First and foremost, only the finest coloured stones were selected for Yard jewellery—sapphires from Kashmir and rubies from Burma—which were carefully cut for maximum depth of colour. Highly polished platinum settings using a minimum of metal, which created the illusion that the gems are floating in air, became another Yard trademark. Yard also utilized contrasting gemstone cuts, playing simple step cuts against sparkling brilliants, which lent his jewels an added lushness.
Yard retired in 1958, and the firm was taken over by three men selected by him, one of which was his protégé Robert Gibson, who was originally Yard’s golf caddy. Continuing the stewardship of Yard’s trademark quality, the torch was then passed to Gibson’s son in 1989, who continues to maintain the Yard name.