Fulco Santostefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura (1898-1978), a Scilian aristocrat, better known as just Verdura created some of the most original pieces of jewelry ever. Sought after by royalty, Hollywood stars and the simply wealthy, his jewelry has remained popular for the past 70 years.

His talent in creating whimsical and truly innovative jewelry designs will soon be celebrated in a special exhibition of his work at the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault of Houston's Museum of Natural Science from November 16- February 17, 2008. So if you live near Houston, or are visiting, this is one special treat not to be missed. A close-up gallery of some of the designs on display can be seen here.

Verdura started his career initially as Coco Chanel's textile designer. They both shared an interest in jewelry. Byzantine jewelry designs inspired their most famous collaboration. Verdura created the multi-gemmed and asymmetrically patterned Maltese Cross brooches AND mounted them on hinged cuff bracelets in white enamel. The black and white photo shows both of them looking at one of the bracelets which she wore often. Coco Chanel went on to reinterpret the design in many forms.

There is none like his amoeba brooch (middle small picture) with its radiating bejewelled arms. The blossoms of very first Lily of the Valley brooch was supposedly crafted from the baby teeth of the Rothchilds' children in France with the top of each tooth covered with diamonds. But my favourite has to his signature piece, the Wrapped Heart Brooch. The 1949 version in the exhibition is 18k gold and platinum set with 62 cabochon rubies and 232 round diamonds. Another version can be seen here. The design was originally created in 1941, a Valentine's Day gift for the wife of one of Verdura's clients. The husband said "I want to give her my heart – make something fantastic.” And so he did.