Yvonne Hackenbroch was born to a Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her parents were Zacharias Hackenbroch, an art dealer, and his wife, Clementine, née Schwarzschild, a descendant of the antiquarian and philanthropist Selig Goldschmidt of J & S Goldschmidt. As a child, Yvonne became fluent in French, English, and Italian. She studied the history of art in Italy and at the University of Munich, where she obtained both her undergraduate and doctoral degrees. In 1937, to escape the Nazi regime in Germany, she moved with her mother to the UK, where she landed a job at the British Museum. She helped excavate and catalogue the Sutton Hoo treasure, and served as the jewelry adviser to the 1944 film Henry V starring Laurence Olivier. In 1946, she was sent by the British Government to Toronto, where she provided advice on the Lee Collection of Renaissance art given to Canada by Arthur Lee, 1st Viscount Lee of Fareham. A few years later, she moved to New York City to become a curator of the art collection given by Irwin Untermyer to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This led her to write seven books, on subjects including antique silver, bronze, porcelain, needlework, and furniture. She later joined the Met as a specialist in Renaissance art. In addition to scholarly articles, she wrote another book, Renaissance Jewellery (1979), that established her as an expert in the field. After retiring from the Met in 1987 she moved back to London.