Exclusive: Behind the Intimate Sale of Mary Tyler Moore's Jewels

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The Jewelry of Mary Tyler Moore to Be SoldCourtesy of Sothebys
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Dr. S. Robert Levine, the widower of the legendary Mary Tyler Moore, speaks about his late wife's jewels as if he is re-reading his favorite novel. "Yeah, this one," Levine says regarding a cultured pearl and diamond brooch of cornucopia design. His voice becomes shaky from emotion, and continues: "This one is special because it was the last piece of jewelry I gave to her."

The piece is one of around 25 lots that will be sold at auction at Sotheby's in December, Town & Country can exclusively reveal. It was Dr. Levine's gift to Moore after 30 years of marriage, a token of what he describes as "a horn of plenty; an acknowledgment of the many years of life and devotion, filled with our love for one another."

robert levine and mary tyler moore during hills science diet winners circle awards february 5, 1993 at new york hilton hotel in new york city, new york, united states photo by ron galella, ltdron galella collection via getty images
Robert Levine and Mary Tyler Moore during Hill’s Science Diet Winners Circle Awards. Ron Galella, Ltd.

The collection is emblematic of Moore: a curious, working woman always on the go. There's an Audemars Piguet Gold and Diamond wristwatch (est. $4,000-$6,000) and a steel and diamond Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatch ($4,000-$6,0000). Her diamond ring features a wide gold band (est. $50,000-$70,000) to minimize the risk of her precious jewel would not slipping while moving. But, of course, Moore did not shy away from more glamorous sartorial decisions: a group of gold "mesh" jewels by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. features a scarf-like necklace, a heart pendant necklace, and a pair of earrings set with baroque cultured pearls.

Chief of objects is a Bulgari Ancient Coin gold, ruby, and diamond necklace (est. $25,000-$35,000) which Dr. Levine gave Moore as a wedding gift in 1983. The two visited the Bulgari store on 5th Avenue and chose the Greek coin together after a trip to Egypt and Israel earlier that year.

"It wasn't crafted the big statement, it was crafted for us and our shared appreciation for ancient cultures," Dr. Levine says. "A lot of people thought we should've never gotten married and it was at these holy places where we reflected on our lives together and asked, why not? Why shouldn't we be married? The antiquity of these places helped us realize that we wanted to spend our lives together."

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Levine commissioned this Bulgari ancient coin necklace for Moore as a wedding gift. Courtesy of Sothebys
A group of diamond heart-shaped necklaces that Moore frequently wore. Courtesy of Sothebys

Mary Tyler Moore rose to fame when she was first cast as "Laura Petrie" on the The Dick Van Dycke Show (1961-66), a role for which she won three Emmy Awards. Her character evolved into a symbol of Moore's entire professional life: opinionated with an independent spirit whose sartorial choices (in Petrie's case, signature capri pants) changed the image of the modern American woman. Moore's show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, won more than 29 Emmy awards in its seven-year run, a record that would stand until 2002. She was outspoken about equal pay and highlighted the pitfalls of dating while sustaining a work-life balance. Moore was a producer and co-executive of MTM enterprises, which produced defining television shows like Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Newhart, Rhoda, White Shadow, and many others.

She did it all while living with Type 1 Diabetes and suffered many of its complications including near blindness. "You'll notice that the brooch is a more tactile piece compared to the others, and that's because it was around the time her vision began to wane."

mary tyler moore
This cultured pearl and diamond brooch was one of the last pieces Levine gifted Moore. Courtesy of Sothebys

In 2018, a year after Moore's passing, Dr. Levine founded the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative to honor her contributions to diabetes research progress. While parting ways with these jewels, filled with memories of their time together, Dr. Levine finds that the benefits to the foundation will help carry on Moore's legacy. But, still, he's certain that they will live on in his heart and mind.

"There's a shot of Mary when she won her last Emmy in 1993 wearing three pieces of jewelry that are in the auction. That's the image that I very often have of her. Beautiful dress. Big bright smile," Dr. Levine says. "She also loved to wear small hearts. They had great motion and emotion. Those are very Mary. She wore her heart open to the world."

actress mary tyler moore attends the 45th annual primetime emmy awards on september 19, 1993 at the pasadena civic auditorium in pasadena, california photo by ron galella, ltdron galella collection via getty images
Mary Tyler Moore at the 1993 Emmys. Ron Galella, Ltd.

The sale of these jewels are apart of the Magnificent Jewels auction that will take place on December 5, and the Fine Jewels auction will be open for bidding from November 29 to December 7. Highlights will travel to Los Angeles before returning to New York for public exhibition opening December 1. To register, please visit sothebys.com.

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