The Rockefeller Emerald: An emerald and diamond ring by Raymond C. Yard

An 18.04-carat emerald of mesmerising colour and impeccable clarity once owned by the Rockefeller family is set to be the highlight of our Magnificent Jewels sale in New York on 20 June


The Rockefeller Emerald: an emerald and diamond ring, by Raymond C. Yard. Set with an octagonal step-cut emerald of approximately 18.04 carats. Estimate: $4-6 million

Known for his unique flair and keen eye for quality, Raymond Carter Yard set a high standard for American jewellery design in the 20th century. Born the son of a railroad conductor in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1885, as a boy Raymond Yard became known to William Elder Marcus, owner of Marcus & Co, an established jewellery firm in New York City. After Yard’s father passed away, Marcus offered the young Raymond a job, and at 13 years of age he quit school and moved to Manhattan with his mother.

Under the guidance of William Elder Marcus, Yard immersed himself in the world of jewellery and steadily climbed the ranks of the firm, forming close relationships with the elite of American society along the way. Yard’s honest demeanour and knowledge of jewellery caught the eye of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and they developed a personal and professional relationship that would greatly affect Yard’s career.

Rockefeller strongly encouraged Raymond Yard to establish his own firm. Yard resigned from Marcus & Co. at the age of 37, and opened his first salon in May 1922 at 527 Fifth Avenue. Within four years, with business booming and more space needed, Raymond C. Yard, Inc. had moved location up Fifth Avenue.


The Rockefeller Emerald: an emerald and diamond ring, by Raymond C. Yard. Set with an octagonal step-cut emerald of approximately 18.04 carats. Estimate: $4-6 million. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels and The Rockefeller Emerald on 20 june at Christie’s in New York

Raymond Yard’s extensive client base greatly helped him to grow his company. Rockefeller believed in Yard’s brand and introduced him to New York’s wealthiest families, including the Vanderbilts, the DuPonts and the Woolworths.

In 1930 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased through a private owner a brooch for his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The brooch, said to be by Van Cleef & Arpels, centred upon a large emerald with mesmerising colour and impeccable clarity.

This superb Colombian emerald embodies the grandeur of the Rockefeller empire

When Abby Aldrich Rockefeller passed away in 1948, Rockefeller turned to Yard to disassemble the brooch. Individual emeralds from the setting were distributed among the Rockefeller children. The centre emerald, weighing an impressive 18.04 carats, was given to David Rockefeller. 

Entrusting Raymond Yard with this stunning gemstone, Rockefeller asked Yard to mount the emerald on a ring. Executed with an elegantly understated diamond and platinum setting, the ring was one of Raymond Yard’s most important private commissions.

The intense colour and distinct saturation that typifies a Colombian emerald is illustrated perfectly in this remarkable stone. Described by the American Gemological Laboratories as ‘Exceptional’, it possesses what AGL calls an ‘unusual combination of size, provenance, absence of treatment and quality factors [that contribute] favourably to its rarity and desirability’.

Due to its rarity, an emerald of this quality and significant weight is not readily found in the market, and it is ranked at the top of its class.

Notable Colombian emeralds appear in the some of the most famous collections, and throughout the years many have appeared at auction. Perhaps the most famous collection was that of Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, sold in May 1887, which contained several magnificent emeralds. More recently, in December 2011, Elizabeth Taylor’s 23.46 carat emerald Bulgari brooch commanded much attention.

Though it has passed on to other hands, this superb Colombian emerald still embodies the grandeur of the Rockefeller family name. Now the Rockefeller Emerald is to be sold — fittingly in the heart of Rockefeller Center, where John D, Rockefeller, Jr.’s dream of a ‘city within a city’ first came to life nearly a century ago.

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